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This Russian Business 

This Russian 

E. T. Brown 

Boston and New York 

Houghton Mifflin Company 





I. The Red Room 7 

II. Enter the Five Years Plan 213 

III. This Camaraderie 30 

IV. Class Distinctions 34 
V. Immigrants 40 

VI. Rubbing Shoulders 49 

VII. Odious Comparisons 57 

VTIL "U.S.S.R. in Construction" 62 

IX. How much is a Rouble? 69 

X. Living Communally 85 

XI. Hard and Soft 94 

XII. Sermons in Stones 1 1 1 

XIII. The Changing Landscape 125 

XIV. Russia and the Church 130 
XV. A Censorship or Two 158 

XVI. The Last Word Wins 1 7 5 

XVIL Politics and Terrorism 195 

X VHL The Use of Force 214 

XIX. When Bolshevism Fails 23 5 

XX. After Bolshevism Succeeds 241 

Index 255 


The Red Room 

WHEN AUGUSTUS PROPOSED to take me for a trip to Russia 
he explained that it would give me an opportunity to see 
Things as they Really Are. I contested this (as it seemed 
to me) over-weening expectation as well as I could, saying 
that if one were to see anything as unusual and surprising 
as that, it would surely be necessary to stay at least six 
months, and to have a competent knowledge of the language 
before we started, both of which were out of the question. 
For the rest, it seemed to me that I shouldn t see any 
further through a brick wall just for having my nose rubbed 
against it. Besides, there were so many people at home who 
could (and did) tell me about things as they really are, that 
it seemed a kind of reflection on them to insist on a more 
ox less perfunctory personal inspection. 

This incautious trailing of my coat started a discussion, 
in which Augustus wiped the floor with me, and the upshot 
was that we did go to Russia. Whether we saw things as 
they really are is a question on which (as I confidently hope) 
my great-grandsons will make up their minds one of these 
days. But at present I do not think that I know essentially 
any more about Russia than I did before I went there. 
Superficially, of course, I have learnt something. I know 
the kind of soup they give you to eat, and how uncom 
fortable railway travelling is, and how many roubles go to 
the pound. But I do not feel that any of my deeper doubts 
have been solved, or that I found in Leningrad or Moscow 
the key to any of the riddles which oppress my mind (an4 
your tnind) in London. 


This Russian Business 

The agnostic point of view in politics is, most unhappily, 
not so easily shaken, nor at such small cost. This is some* 
times explained by saying that agnostics are at bottom more 
stupid than other men, and that refusing to exert one s 
mind is a feeble sort of attitude. This argument almost 
convinces me, but I cannot quite get rid of a feeling that 
it is in reality more difficult to sit on a fence than to fall 
off it. 

We started off in a Soviet ship for Leningrad. There 
were about twenty more tourists on board, but the only 
one I remember very distinctly was a lady school teacher 
whom I suspected from the first of Communist tendencies. 
She used to contradict Augustus very freely, which left me 
more leisure for other things than I should otherwise 
have had. 

We were all inclined to be curious about that ship. 
A ship is always rather intriguing, especially a foreign 
ship. And then somehow one was not used to thinking of 
Russia as a place that had ships. "A Russian ship" was a 
novel and striking phrase, rather like "an Italian prairie" 
or "an Icelandic millionaire/ The Muscovite and the sea 
did not seem to mix. The proper setting for Russian life 
seemed to be steppes, not ships : one s imagination needed 
plains and pine forests, dust, mud, villages, sledges, dogs, 
wolves, and several feet of snow. Nevertheless, it was clear 
that the thing did exist, and one s imagination girded up 
its loins and tried to guess what it would be like. At any 
rate it would be different. It would be a piece of Russia, 
and of modern Socialist Russia, one supposed. And that 
started new speculations. How did Socialism and ships fit 
in together? That was a new idea, too. Somehow, all the 
Utopian descriptions of the Socialist State seemed to have 
forgotten seafaring. In Looking BatfavarJ, for example, 
there were all sorts of descriptions of what Socialist fac- 



tories would be like, and cities, and farms, and concerts, and 
theatres and things like that, yes, even an account (long 
before Marconi) of how the Socialist citizen would listen 
to sermons (sermons!) on the wireless. But I could not 
remember anything much about ships. Nor did any of the 
standard descriptions of the horrors of modern Communism 
work out that problem in any detail, as far as I could 
recall. Well, it must have been worked out, more or less, 
and we should soon know. Would it be really different 
at all? Was there any reason why one should expect to 
know a Socialist ship when one saw it? 

Augustus said he thought it would be different. There 
would probably be no discipline to speak of, and the decks 
would be filthy. He told us gloomy stories of how bad 
cockroaches could be in neglected ships. . . . Butit wouldn t 
be so bad if only the steering gear was looked after and 
kept in reasonable trim. As for the engines, it would 
probably be all right. Nearly all the engineers in foreign 
ships were Scotchmen. This last statement seemed to me 
to have a distinctly literary flavour about it. I felt certain 
I had read some such" thing, but I could not think where. 
And although Augustus always knows that kind of thing, 
it did not seem to be a case in which one could very well 
ask him. 

My first impression was that the Jan Rxd^utak was 
exactly like any other ship. She was as clean as a new pin, 
and she was kept like that during the whole voyage. A 
careful search disclosed neither cockroaches nor Scotchmen 
on board. I remembered that the proper test (for Scotchmen, 
not cockroaches) is to put your head into the engine-room 
and call out "Mac!" in a loud voice. I did not do that, 
because I was not sure but that "Mak" in Russian might 
mean something aggressive, and Augustus had warned me 
that one must be extremely careful to keep one s tongue 


This Russian Business 

between one s teeth, as the secret police were everywhere, 
and all policemen were stupid, even secret ones. But though 
the golden test was never applied, it became quite clear by 
other means that the whole of that ship s company were 
Russians of one sort and another. 

As far as one could see with the naked eye, so to speak, 
the work of the ship went on exactly in the same way as 
on any other ship. In fact, Augustus says that for the 
merchant navy of a revolutionary state, these Russian 
sea-dogs showed a deplorable lack of originality. Instead 
of blowing horns or beating drums to mark the change of 
watches, as they might have done, they tamely struck the 
conventional bells, the usual number of bells at the ordinary 
times. They washed down the decks in the same stodgy 
fashion, and whenever there was a really fine day they put 
wet paint on all the parts of the railing where you usually 
leaned and looked at the view. Sailors are like that. They 
wake up one morning and see a beautiful sunrise. "Aha 1 
they exclaim, rubbing their horny hands with glee, "a fine 
day! Let s go on deck and paint something!" Augustus 
had led me to believe that Russian sailors would be more 
human. But they aren t. 

Taking it all round, I confess to being distinctly disap 
pointed in the ship, until the day when Augustus found out 
that there was a ship s Soviet. It was on the same occasion 
that the School Teacher discovered the Red Room. This 
seemed very promising. But we stuck at that point for 
quite a long time. It was rather difficult to find out just 
what the ship s Soviet deliberated about, or just -what 
force its conclusions had when the deliberations were over. 
In fact, I am not quite sure that we ever really did get to the 
bottom of it. But some things did become clear little by 
little; stray bits of concrete information dropped like 
manna by the wayside while Augustus wrestled with the 


The Red 

Muscovite about abstract points of Marxist doctrine. 
Augustus would often be too busy with the main argument 
to notice, but the School Teacher, who has a passion for 
collecting and registering Facts, used to dodge about (so to 
speak) between the legs of the combatants picking up 
these unregarded pearls, very much like an active chicken 
desperately picking up grains of corn before they are 
trodden into the mud. 

But the Red Room was easier than that, and perhaps it 
ought to come first. It was situated aft, beyond the well- 
deck. One reached it through the crew s dining and recre 
ation saloon, a very spacious room, nearly square, and 
flanked on either side by the crew s cabins. We poked into 
these here and there : they were pretty much like ordinary 
passenger cabins, some with two berths and some with four. 
The recreation room was used, more or less, by the whole 
ship s company. Everybody seemed to be welcome there, 
and everybody went there at times, passengers and officers 
both included. There was often music in the evenings, 
sometimes a wireless broadcast (mostly from the Leningrad 
station) and sometimes a concertina and a pair of fiddles. 
And either there or on the well-deck, according to the 
weather, a promiscuous crowd of officers, crew, first-class 
passengers, second-class passengers, and third-class pas 
sengers, all danced together, or at least such of them as 
knew how to dance and could find partners. There were 
even (I confess) a few unscrupulous and abandoned persons 
who found partners and danced without knowing how. 

Augustus at first looked on this social hotchpotch of 
ranks and classes with a somewhat doubtful eye, but he 
brightened up after a night or two, and even took his own 
part in the revels. Once he had broken the ice there was no 
holding him. I think he had decided, after some hesitation, 
that these goings on need not be set down as the result of 


This Russian Business 

equalitarian doctrines (which would have imposed on him 
a duty of disapproval) but might reasonably be attributed 
to the well-known Bohemian strain in the racial character 
of the Slavs, which an artist and playwright (did I say that 
Augustus writes plays?) was almost bound to applaud. 
Besides, Augustus is not really a snob, in spite of his 
- Johnsonian theories about the necessity of subordination, 
and as a matter of fact he rather liked that sort of free and 
easy atmosphere. But I don t think he cared to let himself 
go until he had his theoretical defence ready, in case his 
position were attacked by any contentious person. Nobody 
ever did attack him as far as -I know, but he seized an 
opportunity to explain to me at some length the racial 
bonhomie of the Slavs and their natural and charming 
Bohemianism, which is how I come to know about those 

We proceed (through the whirling throng, and by dint 
of squeezing between the fiddler and the door) to the Red 
Room. This turns out to be a rather narrow, oblong chamber 
running across the width of the ship. It is painted deep red 
on walls and ceiling, with the crossed sickle and hammer in 
gold high up on the wall fronting the door, and underneath 
that symbol the motto: "Workers of the World, Unite!" 
also in letters of gold. In the place of honour hangs a large 
portrait of Lenin, and less conspicuously, several other 
portraits, Jan Rudzutak, the People s Commissioner for 
Transport, after whom the ship is named, the grizzled face 
of Karl Marx completely surrounded by enormous quan 
tities of bushy hair growing energetically out of it in all 
directions, Stalin, and one or two more. There is a long 
table in the middle covered with green .baize. Benches 
against the walls, and a few chairs. A large book-case on 
the right. That was about all. 

Now there is nothing much in that. It might have been 


The Ked Room 

any sort of a room. In fact, it seemed rather disappointing. 
We almost came to the conclusion that the only red thing 
about it was the upholstery, and that it was called by that 
name only for prosaic purposes of identification. We had 
probably misunderstood altogether the tone of voice used 
by our informants. Evidently they had merely spoken quite 
casually of the red room, thereby distinguishing it from 
the blue room and the green room and the little room 
under the stairs. Whereas we had been thinking that they 
meant the Red Room, in capital letters, and that the words 
were spoken with just the faintest undertone of excitement, 
as when a schoolboy mentions the Office where he gets 
walloped, or the Pantry, where he is irregularly fed. 

But after some time we found beyond doubt that it 

really was the Red Room, < with a prescriptive right to 

Q capital letters, and that although nothing very exciting or 

Q exotic ever happened there, the room thus set apart was 

lP nevertheless in some ways a symbolic and significant place. 

^ For, as we found later, it is not only the Jan Rjuh&tak, 

U^and not only the Russian ship, that has its red room. 

t The Red Room, or the Red Corner, is now a universal 

Russian institution in every place where a number of people 

live or work to any extent in common. There is a Red Room 

in every factory, a Red Room in a railway station, on a 

^"collective farm; there are Red Rooms in army barracks and 

fjP Red Corners in tenement blocks, apartment houses, and 

/^communal lodging-houses. And there are Red Rooms (or 

[ corners) in all schools. 

Its use and purpose varies to some extent according to 
the size and character of the permanent or temporary com- 
, munity which uses it. It is of course always the meeting 
place of the community or its representatives, the factory 
^committee or house committee, or as the case may be. 
U Here the workers, or if they are too numerous, or the 


This Russian Business 

question is a less important one, an elected council., meet 
to consult about the common interests and to determine 
on concerted action. Here grievances are thrashed out; 
here improvements are decided on, and here, in the last 
resort, any disciplinary measures may be decreed. The 
Committee (or perhaps one ought to keep calling it the 
Soviet, on the same principle that Russian distances must 
never be anything but versts), the Soviet, then, meets in 
the Red Room under the portrait (or bust) of Lenin. But 
the room is much more than a committee room. It is a 
recreation room as well, and a place for the actual inmates 
or members to retire away from the public (in case the 
place is one where the general public comes and goes). 
On the ship, for example, you were free of the outer 
recreation room, but in the Red Room you were definitely 
a visitor ; you went there upon an invitation, and you were 
definitely taken round and led out again. Often the Red 
Room has books in it, and newspapers, or there may be 
separate rooms for that, if the community is large enough 
and the housing crisis not too acute in that city or district. 
We heard of tenements where the Red Room was used for 
chamber music, and in many factories either it or some 
adjacent hall was used for "culture centres," societies for 
mutual improvement of one sort or another, lectures, 
classes, cinemas, or what not. In cases where there was 
space enough, many of these activities might have other 
rooms to themselves, but the Red Room always appeared 
to be the original seed and type of them all. The subsidiary 
rooms were all more or less full of the same spirit, all 
tinged with the same colour, as Augustus says, even if it 
was not visible to the eye. He used to call them the Pink 

But certainly the spirit was really there. There seemed to 
be an atmosphere about these Red Rooms and Red Comers 


The Red 

which separated them from ordinary recreation rooms and 
committee rooms and lecture halls, something faintly 
suggesting a background of religious enthusiasm and the 
altars of a mystic Church. You cannot help coming to see 
the Red Room as an emotional as well as a practical centre 
for the common life of each of these human hives, a focus, 
a rallying-point for the enthusiasms of its members, the 
sign and standard of all that they have in common, a 
reminder to them of their common inheritance, the symbol 
of the living Revolution. 

That is distinctly the sort of impression one has of its 
place in the ideas and feelings of the Russian people, and 
especially the younger generations. How it has come to 
mean all that, is not so easy to say. No doubt, like most 
institutions with any real life of their own, it is partly the 
creation of popular feeling, and partly the result of initiatives 
from a comparatively small number of enthusiasts. But 
whatever the origins may be, the important thing is that 
the institution is obviously alive; it fills a popular want and 
corresponds to popular feeling, whether the people made 
with their own hands the thing they wanted, or accepted it 
ready-made. The question, "whose baby is it?" often seems 
simpler than it really is ; and what is a paradox in physiology 
may be the obvious truth in the lives of communities where 
most healthy children are partly natural and partly adopted. 
But Augustus says that the whole institution was ob 
viously imposed from above, invented and maintained for 
purposes of propaganda, on exactly the same principle 
that a country clergyman starts tennis clubs and debating 
societies, carries on mothers meetings and Dorcas clubs, 
and gets up concerts and socials, nay, even dances in these 
latter days, for the purpose of "keeping our young people 
together," or "keeping in touch with the congregation." 
"That s the whole principle of the thing !" he said, wagging 

This Russian Business 

a denunciatory finger. "You have these Red Rooms, these 
cinemas and lectures and reading clubs and all the rest 
of it, these culture centres/ in the local Bolshevik jargon, 
purely and simply for the purpose of pouring Communist 
doctrine into the people when they aren t looking, so to 
speak. * At this the School Teacher protested a little. 
"But nobody has told us that there is any propaganda in 
the cinemas or lectures 1 How can you tell what sort of 
lectures they are? They may be lectures on anatomy for 
anything we know. Or pictures from Hollywood I" Augustus 
waived the objection aside. "You can bet your hat they reek 
with propaganda," he said. "It isn t in human nature to 
have a chance like that, and not use it. Besides, don t you 
see that there is a kind of mute propaganda in the Red 
Room itself? Always that damned colour 1 It gets on one s 
nerves after a bit. And then there s that eternal bust of 

I dare say Augustus was perfectly right. It does not 
seem to me at all surprising that country parsons and 
Cbmmunist Soviets should have come to similar conclusions 
about mass psychology, nor that their respective propaganda 
should have occasionally proceeded on something the same 
lines. And I do wholly agree with him about the probable 
unconscious suggestion exercised by the Red Room and 
its furnishings. Little things like that do have their effect. 
Only Augustus wants me to be shocked about it, and I 
can t. What is more, I don t feel that Augustus himself is 
really shocked at the people taking their opinions and even 
their emotions ready-made from a propaganda factory. 
What does shock him is that they should deal with the 
wrong factory. And of course he exaggerates a little ; in 
fact, he has rather a bee in his bonnet about this propaganda 
business. He told me once that the Red Corner reminded 
him of the kind of little shrine one sees everywhere in 


The Red 

Catholic countries, with an image of the Virgin and her 
child, decked with offerings of flowers, and with tapers 
burning. He said they used to have lots of them in Russia, 
too, before the Orthodox Church was disestablished. 
When religious orthodoxy became a kind of political 
heresy, and Christianity was no longer the fashion, the 
universal Russian instinct for shrines had to express itself 
in a different way. So now they had Red Corners instead, 
and the busts of Lenin and Marx had taken the place of 
the ikons. He said he could almost believe that the Soviet 
began its sittings by burning incense and reciting a chapter 
from the works of Marx before proceeding to the business 
on the agenda-paper. Augustus is rather fond of these 
picturesque extravagances. But when you take away the 
frills, it seems to me that he is not far wrong. There really 
is some trace of that spirit. Only it is surely not peculiar to 
Bolshevik Russia. I believe an antique Roman house had 
a corner by the hearth where the family paid little attentions 
to the Penates, and by all accounts, the Chinese are accus 
tomed to keep some inner room or special nook where they 
meditate on the merits of their ancestors. Not to mention 
Africa and the South Seas, where (if travellers may be 
believed) every village has a house for the images of the 
tribal gods. And the Match of Progress does not seem to 
make very much difference to such practices, except to 
drive them underground, so to speak. The joss house 
instinct survives in all of us, and no less surely when it 
puts on a secular aspect. Every Victorian parlour had its 
album of family portraits, which were ritually contemplated 
on Sunday afternoons. And there was the framed picture 
of Queen Victoria over the mantlepiece, and the photograph 
of Disraeli or Gladstone (according to the political faith 
of the head of the household) displayed on some slightly 
less honourable wall. Has this nothing in common with 

17 B 

This Russian Business 

ancestor-worship and the veneration of tribal gods? The 
same essential attitude runs through all these things, and 
if the emotions of the Victorian burgher were of a more 
diluted kind, one has to remember that most emotions 
were considerably diluted in that respectable and rather 
watery epoch. 

And to come to our own times, is there not a faint 
odour of the joss house about our reverent attitude towards 
things like the Lord Mayor s Show, and Guy Fawkes Day, 
and the opening of Parliament, and the inspiring spectacle 
of the Lord Chancellor mystically seated on a sack of 
wool? Not to mention the Horse Guards, and the British 
Constitution, and The Times. 

Augustus gave me to understand that he disliked the 
colour of the Red Room simply because it was aesthetically 
offensive, garish, loud, and flaunting. But of course he 
really disliked it for the same reason that the Russians 
liked it, namely, because the colour in itself was symbolic 
and full of associations, because it was the colour of the 
Red Flag, I don t believe for a moment that Augustus 
found the Red Flag getting on his nerves after he had seen 
it forty or fifty times, which is his account of the matter. 
It was the very first time that he saw the Red Flag that he 
felt like charging it with lowered head. Most likely if he 
had seen it several thousand times in fairly quick succession, 
he wouldn t even have known it was there. And perhaps 
it was rather a pity that he didn t see more of it. I am not 
sure but that a steady course of Red Flaggery might have 
gradually mellowed his views. If you want to get people 
used to an idea, it is a thoroughly sound method of approach 
to begin by getting them used to the symbol that stands 
for it. At any rate that is a pretty common opinion. The 
Egyptians thought they could get people used -to the idea 
of death by carting a corpse about at feasts, using mortality 


The Red Room 

as a sort of inverted appetiser. And there is a story of some 
Australian Government or other which issued a new 
postage-stamp, bearing a kangaroo or the like on it instead 
of the King s head, upon which the Opposition became 
very angry, saying that this alteration would assuredly 
undermine people s loyalty to the Throne, and encourage 
republican sentiment. And upon coming into power shortly 
afterwards, they broke the new dies at considerable cost 
and put the King s head back again, just to show that they 
meant it. They were probably quite right; no doubt upon 
occasion such symbols do affect people s minds in that 
strange way. There is at least one very famous case on 
record where a monarch s right to collect taxation was 
plainly deduced from the fact that he had placed his image 
and superscription upon the coinage. One hardly suspects 
at first how often deep policy is mingled with the marks 
of Caesar s pride. 

But of all such symbols the banner is the most potent 
by far. The absurd attachment of nations and other masses 
of men to a flag, a bit of coloured bunting, is one of the 
most obstinate realities in all history, and one of the most 
moving. And the Red Flag too has its history, its moving 
record of glories and tragedies. It has its roll of martyrs 
in many times and countries, from Siberia to Chicago, from 
Peterloo to Bloody Sunday, and every Russian child in 
these days has heard their names and listened to their story. 
And now at last the deep red glow of struggle and suffering 
has become for all these people the steady light of victory, 
the triumphant standard of an onward march. Whether 
we like it or not, it is in that spirit that Russia lives, and 
it is not strange if, as Augustus says, there is something 
of religious fervour in their attachment to the flag that 
symbolises that sorely tried and now victorious cause, and 
to the heroic images of their almost legendary leaders. 

This Russian business 

A certain famous novelist, who visited Russia some ten 
or twelve years ago, was troubled in spirit by the ever 
lasting portrait of Karl Marx which faced him on every 
wall. No doubt he has learnt before now, not without 
decorous joy, that the image of Marx has gone back to 
second place. In the first days of 1924 Russia was just 
beginning to see daylight again after the terrible years of 
prostration that began with the Civil War and the famine. 
It was then, with the goal in sight, that Lenin died, worn 
out by overwork and anxiety, and with a constitution 
shattered by the after effects of the assassin s bullet. It is 
not surprising that it was his image which filled the minds 
of those that were left behind, and that his portrait began 
to assume the place of honour on the wall. That place it 
still retains, and seems likely to retain. The portrait of 
Marx is still somewhere about, but it is always slightly in 
the background. And this is clearly more than a mere 
formal or official loss of primacy; it represents a real 
intrusion and eclipse, an actual change of proportions in 
the popular hero-worship, Marx is still the inspired legis 
lator, and his works a kind of Bible, from which texts are 
produced to refute an opponent s arguments. But now 
there is a new testament, which is the writings of Lenin. 
The faithful will by no means admit that one of these can 
ever contradict the other, and the mere suggestion savours 
a little of an idle and factious mind. But if such a con 
tradiction could at all be conceived, one has the feeling that 
it is the hairier prophet and the more ancient law whose 
authority would be shaken. 

And as to their personal memories, there is no sort of 
comparison, for if Marx is still the legislator and the 
prophet, his fame is dimmed and made a little legendary 
not only by the mere lapse of time, but also by the fact 
that he, like Moses, never actually entered the promised 


The Red ROOM 

land, but lived all his life in the house of bondage and died 
in a kind of spiritual exile, before the striking of that 
supreme hour towards which all his preaching pointed. 
Lenin s image and memory has now for these Russians 
a far more human appeal, and the more so because there is 
deep pathos mingled with his glory. They cannot forget 
that it was he who led them to their world-shaking victory ; 
that he laboured with them afterwards in an evil day, and 
that he died for their sakes : merits not small even in that 
tortured country, where to harbour a generous enthusiasm 
meant playing with exile and death, and where thousands 
on thousands played with steady eyes against those 
tremendous stakes. 

In sheer personal self-sacrifice Lenin shared an equal 
honour with nameless thousands, but the real prestige of 
his leadership, the rare genius that combined the thinker 
and the Titan, was thrown into greater relief even by 
accidental circumstances. He gave that push to the Revolu 
tion without which it never could have been, and he 
disappeared from the scene at a moment when it was 
flooded with that intense light that illuminates only the 
cardinal turnings of history. It was the dawning of a new 
age ; the very course of events set the scene for an apotheosis. 
In a sense, Lenin appears as the protagonist of two epochs 
of revolutionary Russia; he personifies and sums up that 
long and most moving epic. He emerges from its slow and 
desperate past, and stands for a short moment at its sudden 
tremendous climax, a figure of storm and victory. Then 
comes darkness and sheer ruin; the Revolution is dying. 
By a last effort of insight, a last spurt of resolute action, 
he saves it from the depths ; and then he dies. 

Right or wrong, he holds a unique place in the hearts 
and imaginations of the Russian people ; to them he wears 
the triple crown of the hero, the martyr, and the father 


This Russian Business 

of his country. And it is not easy to imagine that anything 
will ever shake that legend, unless all Russia goes down in 
ruin. No doubt the picture is strange, even grotesque, to 
those who live in a different faith, the faith which was 
defeated when he was victorious, and which despises and 
rejects the works in which he laboured. But that is scarcely 
to the point. To put it at the lowest, the Russians are 
entitled to their own legend. As to its objective truth, 
neither they nor we are in a position for critical and im 
partial judgment; both we and our children are far too 
contemporary; it will be time enough in a hundred years. 


Enter the Five Years Plan 

POLITICAL ECONOMISTS and practical men do not often 
agree, but one maxim at least is common to both of them, 
namely that the average man works much better when he 
is working for himself. Now in our modern societies this 
particular incentive to labour is one which by its nature 
cannot affect the great majority of men. At least seven-tenths 
of the population, in an industrialised Capitalist society, 
must always work for wages for somebody else. And most 
employers secretly (or even openly) believe that as a rule 
they do a shade less than their best. Now in a Socialist 
society this situation is, in theory at least, fundamentally 
altered. The workman is a part-owner, a profit-sharer, 
a joint sufferer from any losses which are sustained. And 
according to the same theory, if he realises that this is the 
true position (or alternatively, if he can be persuaded that 
it is the true position, even though in fact it is not) it should 
follow that he will feel he is working for himself, and 
other things being equal his interest in and enthusiasm for 
his work should be greatly increased. 

It is a significant thing, as far as it goes, that for the time 
being, at least, the Russian worker does seem to feel a 
good deal like that. I say "for the time being," because 
of course it is suggested by opponents of the system that 
this state of mind is political rather than economic, that it 
is, in part, artificially produced, and that it cannot be 
regarded as a permanent element of the Communist system. 
Be that as it may, the practical effect in the meanwhile is 
clearly very considerable. It is a fact of no small value that 
the individual worker should take, as he admittedly does, 

This Russian Business 

an extremely keen interest in the progress of his industry 
and the production figures of his factory. An intense and 
unremitting propaganda drives into him (even if he hadn t 
it before) the idea of his own responsibilities in "the struggle 
for reconstruction." He thinks of himself, he cannot help 
thinking of himself, as a cog in the wheel, a part of a huge 
machine. And the reconstruction of Russia is the theme of 
all talk, the centre of thought, the object of all faith. 
Round that everything revolves, from that everything 
starts, and to that everything at last returns. And that 
reconstruction is always envisaged as a struggle, a contest, 
a far-flung battle, in which you take part with your com 
rades, not for your pay, not for your rations or your petty 
pleasures at the canteen, but for victory. In your factory, 
in your mine, at the plough, in the ship s engine-room, 
you are in a sense a soldier fighting in a sacred cause ; and 
the horizon is dark with fate and bright with to-morrow s 
dawn; it is not yet time to lay down your arms and think 
of your private affairs. Not that everyone at all times 
embraces and maintains that strained enthusiasm. That is 
neither credible nor needful. It is enough that there should 
be sufficient to leaven the mass, and this does seem to be 
true. And what is more, whenever the private soldier takes 
his mind from the struggle and thinks of cakes and ale, 
the influence of the doctrine is still all-powerful; it is to 
the ultimate victory that he looks for these things. If the 
cause goes down, he is persuaded that he will never have 
them at all. And of course he is obviously right, as far as 
that goes. Capitalism may be the only practicable doctrine, 
but no one will pretend that it is a very cheerful one, as 
far as the labouring masses are concerned. No honest man 
suggests that Capitalism will fulfil the promises of Socialism. 
The whole case for Capitalism is that Socialism will not 
fulfil them either, and that even if we are knee-deep in the 

Enter the Five Years Plan 

mud as it is, we had better stay where we are, or we shall 
be in it up to our necks* 

But what is this hoped-for victory towards which all 
hearts in Russia beat? and just what are the conditions of 
the struggle through which victory is to come? The 
orthodox answer to those questions is contained in the 
volumes of Marxist doctrine; but in these days and in 
Russia there is a more concrete and immediate answer; 
it is an answer that serves for most questions, and it is 
contained in three words : the Five Years Plan. It is only 
when one listens to Russians that one realises how much 
the Plan is a living force, I had almost said a living being. 
Of course everybody knows something about the Plan 
from books, and even from common report and the tittle- 
tattle of newspapers. But what has obviously chiefly im 
pressed the minds of most visitors to Russia, and of those 
who come into contact with Russians, is the extent to 
which the Plan has become the single unifying force of 
all everyday life, the goal of all effort and the centre of all 
hopes, the passion, the obsession, almost the religion of 
the rank and file of Russia, and especially of the younger 
generation. There is in all men a certain reserve of energy, 
a certain capacity for fervour and devotion, certain possi 
bilities of effort, of creative will, of tenacious persistence. 
In Western countries and in our days these energies are 
partly scattered and chaotic; they answer in different men 
(and even in the same man) to different stimuli, and they 
discharge themselves in many different directions and flow 
along confused and even contrary channels. But in Soviet 
Russia and in these present years all those energies have 
become extraordinarily collected and concentrated. The 
passion of religious faith, the ardour of the patriot, the fire 
of the creative artist, the enthusiasm of youth, the weather- 
beaten tenacity of experienced men, all these have been 

This Russian Business 

appropriated, transmuted, turned into one central channel 
and harnessed to one overmastering purpose, the achieve 
ment of the Five Years Plan. To the younger people 
especially, the Plan is for the time being the be-all and 
end-all ; it fills the whole horizon ; it occupies all the present 
and colours all hopes of the future; it is the crown of 
labour and the promise of victory, the staff with which 
to walk, the far-off castle on the hill. They always speak 
of it in terms of studied matter-of-factness, but one always 
feels that there is something more ; there is always a latent 
emotion, a suppressed fire. The Plan has not only cap 
tured their thinking faculties, but, what is far more im 
portant, it has possessed itself of their deepest emotions 
and their farthest-reaching aspirations. There is an element 
of deep truth in the mocking jest of a visiting journalist, 
that to the present generation of Russia at this moment 
the Five Years Plan is God. But apart from picturesque 
exaggerations of that kind, one cannot doubt that the 
Russian acceptance of the Plan, the Russian devotion to 
the Revolution which gave it birth, rank among the five 
or six great enthusiasms of all history. There were the 
Crusades, the Renaissance and the discovery of the New 
World, the Reformation, the French Revolution, and so on. 
But none of these movements was on quite so vast a scale 
or touched everyday existence at so many different points, 
none of them appealed to so many different motives, or 
promised so vast a transformation of ordinary human lives. 
Certainly, the French Revolution promised liberty, equality, 
and fraternity. But the Bastille was scarcely taken before it 
began to be clear that there was a certain misunderstanding 
as to what these fine words meant ; and by the timeNapoleon 
was ready to appropriate the inheritance of the Bourbons 
and put the Revolution in his pocket, the French people 
were sufficiently disillusioned to let him do it. But in 


Enter the Five Years Plan 

Russia, in spite of everything, there is no such disillusion 
ment. The tide is still at flood; the enthusiasm shows no 
signs of waning ; the climax is not yet reached. There is 
plenty of violent disagreement ; there are even heresy hunts, 
excommunications, outlawings and exiles. But there is 
still no doubt as to the end to be sought; the people know 
what they mean by their war-cries, and they mean to win, 
if Fate at all allows. Nor is there any real trace or serious 
fear of Caesarism. Whatever men hold against the Govern 
ment, it is believed to be honest; if it means to betray the 
people, there is at least no sign yet. Therefore this fervour 
still holds ; the revolutionary spirit burns with a steady flame ; 
the people are still confident that the future is in their hands. 
And if the Five Years Plan has successfully harnessed all 
this energy for its own purposes, this is because the Plan 
has imposed itself as the logical outcome, the cardinal 
point, the culminating struggle of the Revolution. It is to 
industrialise Russia, to make a wealthy country out of a 
poor one, and -thereby to make enormous improvements 
in wages, food, housing, conditions generally in one word, 
to raise the peasants and the proletariat to a level of 
civilised welfare undreamed of before. But this is not all, 
and not the greatest thing. What gives the Plan its final 
chrism, and makes the effort for its achievement a kind 
of holy war, is that it is designed to make Russia self- 
contained, an independent country instead of a dependent 
one, to give the workers republic at last some kind of 
security against the ceaseless fear of intervention by the 
hostile Capitalist states, of combined economic pressure, 
of open or secret war. Hence too all this feverish haste, 
this continual quickening of the tempo of the plan, this 
anxiety to forestall the appointed time. For no Russian 
knows when intervention may come. The hostile states 
are divided: perhaps to-morrow they will be united. They 

* This Russian Business 

are irresolute, to-morrow some chance may galvanise them 
to sudden action. Their populations are restive : will the 
attack come as soon as they are quiescent? or if domestic 
troubles become more dangerous, will they make a diver 
sion at our expense? And perhaps it will not be war, but 
economic boycott. If they refused to-morrow to sell us 
machinery, to allow their technicians to work in our 
industries and train our workers, can we carry on without 
them yet? have we factories enough already? have we 
enough experience? if the worst happens, how soon could 
we manage at a pinch? will it be six months hence? will it 
be a year? 

They all talk like that; there is no reasonable doubt that 
they feel like that. To the Western spectator the fear of 
war may seem fantastic. The last war was fantastic enough 
in its origins, but would not Europe have done better to 
be more afraid of it before it happened? And as to the 
economic boycott, that is obviously a very real danger to 
the Soviet States. America and Canada have already set 
up some piece-meal prohibitions, and there is an active 
party in England, there are active parties everywhere, 
bringing pressure on their Governments to cut off all 
economic relations with these unclean countries. Nor are 
these agitators idle fanatics ; on the contrary, there is surely 
some ground for looking on them as the only realists on 
their pwn side of the fence. There is no doubt that if the 
Socialist order succeeds in Russia, the Capitalist order else 
where will be immediately imperilled. And the obvious 
way (if it be not already too late) of preventing the success 
of the Russian experiment is to shut down on supplies, 
especially supplies of machinery and supplies of expert 
technicians, before Russia becomes self-supporting. But 
the real security of Russia lies in the fact that these realists 
are not likely to get their own way. At the moment, Russia 


Enter the Five Years Plan 

has a monopoly of enthusiasm. The masses (and even a 
good part of the classes) in Western countries are economic 
atheists. They are not likely to overturn the Capitalist 
order, for the present at any rate. But they will not willingly 
submit to any sacrifices in order to support it. They are 
inclined to cry, "A plague on both your houses I" They 
want peace and quiet above all things. They are not likely 
to get it. But they will not subsidise any disturbances if 
they can help it. 


This Camaraderie 

IT WAS ALL my fault. We had been for some days in Lenin 
grad, and were to leave for Moscow on the evening train, 
at eight o clock. I had spent most of the afternoon exploring 
the byways of the city, and at a quarter past seven I found 
myself in a crowded street a good way from my hotel, 
and my bag not even packed. The pavements were chock- 
full of people. It is a curious fact that when you are in a 
hurry nearly all the people in the street begin to move in 
the opposite direction from the one you want to take. And 
even those few who are going the same way walk much 
more slowly than usual. In spite of these distressing facts 
I did my best for the next quarter of an hour, but frequent 
references to my watch made it clear that time was moving 
much faster than I could. At last it dawned on me that the 
roadway, at least, was fairly clear, and I stepped off the 
kerb and began to dodge along between the traffic. Suddenly 
a voice from somewhere on the footpath came to me out 
of the evening gloom. "Tovarishch 1" (comrade). And then 
again, "Tovarishch! Tovarishch!" Was the fellow hailing 
me, I wondered. Anyway, if he were, it must be a mistake. 
I knew no one in Leningrad who would hail me in Russian. 
Besides, it was too late to stop and investigate. I kept on. 
But suddenly a heavy hand was laid on my shoulder, and 
the greater part of the Russian language was shot off close 
to my ear. I turned round. It was a policeman (or rather a 
militiaman. You must not call them policemen. That is a 
Czarist term). He addressed me at some length. He talked 
very fast. If he had not been a little out of breath, I am sure 
he would have done even better. He also gesticulated. I 


This Camaraderie 

understood that rather more clearly. He did not seem to be 
talking to me all the time. Part of his discourse was evidently 
addressed to the krge and apprecktive crowd which had 
collected round us. I gathered at last that he was appealing 
to them, as well as to high Heaven and to me, to bear 
witness to the enormity of my offence. At that moment I 
was not at all clear what my offence was. But I knew it was 
enormous. I found out afterwards that pedestrians are 
forbidden to walk on the roadway under penalty of a fine 
of one rouble, to be collected then and there by the officer 
of the law. I jabbered back at him in several non-Slavic 
knguages, but he answered me just as vehemently, and he 
gesticulated far better than I did. The only words I caught 
were three which frequently recurred. They were "Tovar- 
ishch," "rouble," and "straf." They seemed to come in 
every hundred words or so, like a refrain, and he had a 
nasty way of holding out his hand as if he expected me to 
put something into it. I knew very well what he meant, but 
I kept on jabbering, to the delight of the still gathering 
crowd, while I did some rapid thinking. If I kept on being 
obtuse I should probably be arrested and taken to a Soviet 
watch-house, which would be worth while. Besides, it 
would probably, after two hours talk, save me a rouble. 
On the other hand, I should most certainly miss that train, 
which would not only cost me many roubles, but also upset 
all my arrangements. I regretfully decided to cut my losses, 
and I gave him a rouble. He wrote me a receipt, which I 
still treasure, and after the crowd and I had exchanged a few 
farewell giggles, I rushed away (on the pavement, for the 
most part) and caught that train by a hair s breadth. 

Of course I had to explain why I was kte. Augustus was 
unusually sympathetic. But it was the word "Comrade 1" 
that worried him most. He sympathised with me because 
the policeman had fraternised with me, while he fleeced 

This Russian Business 

me. He thought it was adding insult to injury. I tried to 
explain that I was not particular what policemen called me. 
I did not remember my gorge rising when I heard the word 
"Comrade" from a bobby s lips. My objections to the 
proceedings were of a far more sordid kind. It was when 
he mentioned roubles that I thought his remarks were out 
of place. But Augustus had thought of something else. 
"They all do itl" he said. "You may pretend you are 
amused, but it s not only policemen and petty criminals." 
("Thank you," I murmured, "thank you kindly.") But 
Augustus went on : "I remember now hearing on the ship 
that the sailors use the word to their officers. In fact I heard 
one of them doing it. Tovarishch Kapitan, he said. 
Comrade Captain! What do you think of that?" "It all 
depends 1" I said with some feeling. "If the sailor was just 
being amiable, I don t see anything against it. What was 
he talking to the captain about? Did he touch him for 
a rouble? That s the point!" "Don t be an ass!" said 
Augustus. "The point is that you must have discipline, 
and to have that you must have the ordinary exterior 
marks of respect. . . ." And he explained carefully how 
familiarity breeds contempt, and all that. 

I don t know. No doubt the word "comrade" is a little 
overworked in Russia just now. As Augustus says, it is 
not only policemen and malefactors. The word has become 
the almost universal form of address. If you ask a stranger 
the way, you address him as "comrade." In a shop you are 
addressed as "comrade." Stalin and his bootblack call each 
other "comrade." The former terms of address equivalent 
to "Sir," and "Madam" and "Mister," and so on, have 
totally disappeared from current speech. You may call a 
stranger "Grazhdanin" (Citizen) instead of Comrade, but 
I don t think that would please Augustus any better. Of 
course the latter term was used long ago in the French 


This Camaraderie 

Revolution. They used it everywhere, even in the armies, 
where discipline is supposed to be especially necessary. 
And apparently nothing very disastrous happened. Bona 
parte seems to have been able to win battles, even when his 
soldiers were still addressing him as "Gtizen General." 
And no doubt ships can be navigated more or less success 
fully under the same kind of handicap. As a matter of fact, 
any word that is used as a mere formula is likely to have its 
original meaning worn pretty thin. Convention for conven 
tion. I don t know that it is any more absurd for a ship s 
carpenter to address the commander as "comrade captain" 
than for an English captain to address his subordinate 
officer as "sir," which he does upon occasion, or for the 
Pope to describe himself as the slave of God s slaves, or 
for Rockefeller or Rothschild or the Prime Minister of 
Engknd to write a letter to a junior clerk or a village 
postmaster and sign it, "Yours obediently." If there is really 
a comradely spirit between officers and crew, one may 
suppose that the work will go forward all the better for 
that. If there is no such thing, then that form of address 
is simply meaningless, and may therefore take its pkce 
alongside nearly all the other existing forms of address. 


Class Distinctions 

PEOPLE SOMETIMES get the idea that Augustus is a con 
firmed eater of Bolsheviks, but that is scarcely true. He 
has his anti-Communist moods and his pro-Communist 
moods. I suppose most people have. I mean ordinary 
people who are not obliged to take some sort of official 
view of the matter, and stick to it. No one expects a publi 
cist or a politician to have moods. He can t afford himself 
luxuries. He has to be right all the time. Even if he does 
change, he can t do it all at once. If he turns his coat, he 
still has to wear his trousers the same way out until people 
have got used to it. But with ordinary people it depends 
on the weather, on how they feel, on the last bit of news 
they have read in the morning s paper, and sometimes even 
on the degree of personal antipathy they feel towards the 
man who tries to ram down their throats what in other 
circumstances may be their favourite doctrine. I know we 
all changed our minds a good many times during that 
trip, although of course we didn t always admit it to each 
other, any more than great men do. You can t change 
your mind in public, with any decency, any more than 
you can change your clothes. Not without ceremony, that 
is. The advantage of not being a great man is that you 
are not always in public. You can sort your impressions 
out a bit in strict privacy, and then come back to the com 
pany and show off your new suit. But it s a troublesome 
business. Still, we all did have a good many tackings and 
zigzaggings. Only the trouble about Augustus was that 
he had not two different attitudes, but three. He did the 
usual zigzags from right to left, and then sometimes he 


Class Dlstinctio ns 

would execute a sudden disconcerting movement from 
top to bottom, in a kind of mental third dimension. He 
sometimes praised Russian Socialist arrangements. Some 
times he denounced them. But at times he attacked the 
Bolsheviks, with a kind of moral fervour, because their 
arrangements were not Socialist at all, because their pre 
tended new order was just the same old order swaggering 
about in fancy dress clothes. More than once I felt sure 
that he was right, but it seemed to me that the appropriate 
emotions were grief, if one were a Socialist, and mirth, if 
one were not. Augustus insisted on treating it as a matter 
for holy wrath. He reserved his grief for the occasions 
when he felt compelled to praise the deeds of the Bol 
sheviks, and my impression is that he considered mirth on 
these subjects to be rather unseemly. 

It began with the steamer tickets. They were printed in 
Russian, but we made out that they were second-ckss 
tickets. Augustus pointed out that this was all wrong. 
How could one have different cksses amongst passengers 
on a Communist ship? Surely equality was the first dogma 
of all revolutionists. But here there were evidently first, 
second, and third classes- an aristocracy, a bourgeoisie, 
and a proletariat, in the very stronghold of this allegedly 
classless society. The whole thing was obviously a fake. 
Equality broke down the moment it came into contact 
with practical life. ... I tried to console him by suggesting 
that if there were only one class the accommodation would 
probably be all of it very uncomfortable, as it was on most 
one-ckss ships. Augustus agreed with this, but he in 
sisted that even if he were more comfortable as it was, 
that did not alter the fact that the Bolsheviks were rene 
gades to their own principles in arranging things that way. 
He made it clear that his personal gratitude was mingled 
with a public-spirited indignation. He continued to be 


This ULussian Business 

indignant about it at intervals all through the voyage, 
whenever anything reminded him of that topic, and in 
Russia itself his wrath became chronic, for there we found 
that there were different cksses in trains, too, and more 
and less expensive categories of hotels, and better or worse 
seats in the theatres, at different prices. ... It certainly 
did seem rather disappointing, to say the least of it. We 
had rather expected some show of equality in these things. 
We wanted to know just how it was done, in what ways 
it worked out, and we were rather curious about that. 
We were not sure whether the consequences would be 
edifying or absurd, but we did expect to see some conse 
quences. Well, the thing simply wasn t there to be looked 
at. It was like going to see a well-advertised circus, all 
agog to know if the performers could really do the acts 
we had seen on the posters, and then finding that the 
most exciting turns had been cut out of the programme. 
We rather felt that we wanted our money back. 

When we got on board our fears were confirmed. There 
were, in fact, three classes. Certainly the third-class accom 
modation was better than on most ships. There was not 
the same differences in the cabins. But still there were three 
classes. It was just an ordinary ship. Somebody suggested 
hopefully that perhaps it was only a temporary arrange 
ment. The Bolsheviks must be kept rather busy changing 
everything from top to bottom, and perhaps they hadn t 
got round to ships yet. This sounded pkusible enough 
during the voyage, but it lost a good deal of its force when 
we came to trains and theatres, and so on. Augustus rejected 
the explanation from the first, but he reminded us that the 
Jan Rjttfyttak was partly a tourist ship, and no doubt had 
to cater for foreign tastes. It might be that this snobbish 
differentiation into cksses was a concession to the barbarian 
West, something thrown in as a bait for the bourgeoisie, 

Class Distinctions 

so that they should more readily visit Russia and there 
spend their coveted foreign currency. 

However, after we had been a little time on board, we 
began to realise that it was not quite an ordinary ship, after 
all. For although the sleeping and eating accommodation 
was separate, everything else was shared by the three 
cksses in common. All the deck space was free to every 
body, except of course the sacred spaces of the bridge. 
There was a smoking saloon and a drawing-room, both 
very comfortable, situated amidships near the first-class 
cabins. These rooms were free to the third ckss, and were 
actually used by them as much as by the first or second. 
All the passengers mixed freely amusements, games, the 
endless talk that goes on aboard ship, everything went 
on without the slightest suggestion of snobbishness or 
constraint. And of course I have already mentioned the 
evening music and the dancing. 

.^ There it was. The ship was hybrid. There were class 
distinctions and there were not. In comparison with an 
English ship, equality had made a certain headway, even 
a good deal of headway. But it had stopped half-way. You 
could still buy with money a preferential treatment, an 
advantage over your fellow-passengers, though not in all 
things. It was evidently true that the Bolsheviks had not 
got round to ships yet, whatever they might have done in 
other directions. At any rate, they had not yet been equal 
to the task of devising an equalitarian solution of the food 
and lodging question. Either they had not had sufficient 
imagination to work out the details, or else in these, almost 
the first ships built in Soviet yards, they had slavishly copied 
the plans of other ships, with separate cabin accommodation 
and separate dining saloons. And then they had maintained 
the same old difference in fares. Of course it was clear 
enough that under any conceivable rearrangement of 


This Russian Business 

accommodation some berths in a ship would still be better 
than others. I should hate to have a cabin in the bowels 
of the ship without a porthole, or one above the propeller, 
or even right forward, where in bad weather the bows 
climb giddily to somewhere near the stars, hang poised 
there for a breathless instant, and then, with a sickening 
rush, smash down again on the seas. I shouldn t be in the 
least consoled if they told me that the other cabins were the 
same class and the same price. In fact, I should be all the 
more annoyed to think that I was not even saving money. 
But then, of course, I am a bad sailor. Still, the difference 
is there, even if my excitable innards make it seem more 
important than it really is. Rich men never take third-class 
cabins, even when their bowels are of brass. And then as 
to dining-rooms, if you turned a talented and imaginative 
Communist ship designer loose and told him to produce 
a single krge dining saloon for all the passengers, or several 
saloons all equally airy and equally desirable in other ways, 
I don t know how far the limitations of ships would allow 
him to succeed. But I should think a good deal could be 
done. In most ships the third-class dining-room is a decidedly 
uncomfortable place. There again, nothing could ever make 
all the accommodation exactly equal. If there were only 
one dining saloon on the ship, I should still prefer the seat 
nearest the door. 

I asked Augustus how he thought these inequalities 
came to be preserved; was it that the Bolshevik designers 
did not really want equality, but only pretended that they 
did? Augustus would not go as far as that. He said you 
could never tell what a Bolshevik really wanted. You might 
as well question the secret motives of a thundersrorm. But 
the point was that the thing was impossible. It simply 
could not be done. When these theorists come up against 
Hard Facts. ... He concluded (some little time afterwards) 


Class Distinctions 

by saying that he didn t blame the Bolsheviks for not 
accomplishing the impossible. He blamed them for pre 
tending that they had accomplished it. 

But I think Augustus was too lenient. I am rather inclined 
to blame the Bolsheviks. It seems to me that they might 
have had a shot at working out their ideas, at any rate. 
Obviously a good deal could be done if competent persons 
really set their minds to it. It was a technical problem, like 
any other technical problem. And I should have liked to 
see what sort of fist they would make of it. I could only 
hope that they would see the error of their ways kter on. 
When they have finished with Five Years Plans and collec 
tive farms and such things, and are looking about them for 
more worlds to conquer, perhaps they will at last get round 
to this little job, which has hitherto been somewhat scamped. 
And then, but not till then, I shall know whether those 
Hard Facts that Augustus talks of are really as hard as 
he makes out. 


IT TOOK us some little time to find out what kind of people 
had shipped in each of the three classes, chiefly because you 
could not tell what ckss a man was in until you actually 
saw him going into his quarters, or until he told you. The 
first ckss were easily identified; there were only four or 
five of them. They were all either foreign specialists or 
women tourists. Most of the second ckss were also either 
tourists, or foreign specialists or technicians coming to 
Russk on contract, or returning there after leave. There 
were also several wives of such technicians, who had been 
holidaying in Germany or Austria, and were now rejoining 
their husbands in Leningrad or Moscow. There were not 
more than two or three Russians, and these were women 
who had long lived abroad, and were now coming home 
to stay with rektives. Most of the Russians (they were the 
smallest part of the passengers) went third class. In fact 
one had on the whole the impression that if one were a 
Russian, it was not quite the thing to travel first or second; 
it had a kind of bourgeois flavour about it. It was a weakness 
pardonable enough in outknders. 

The third ckss was pretty full, and (what seemed at first 
a little strange) they turned out to be almost all immigrants. 
Even the Russians were mostly people who had lived long 
years abroad, emigrants of pre-war days coming back at 
last, often with English-speaking wives and families. 
Somehow, one had never thought of Russk as a country 
into which a tide of immigration flowed, and the strangeness 
of the phenomenon was increased when one found that a 
very large proportion of the immigrants were from the 



New World. One generally thinks of emigration as flowing 
(or in these days trickling) from Europe to America, and 
not vice versa. And Russia in particular Russia was one 
of the ckssic sources of emigration, a prolific and poverty- 
stricken race, a huge reservoir of lean peasant-kind, sad-eyed 
and hard-bestead, who overflowed (when the Czars had 
no wars at hand) and went seeking for knds where bread 
was not so bitter as at home. Then of course one knew that 
besides that tide of the poor who crossed the Atlantic to 
make their fortunes there had been in these revolutionary 
years another tide, this time of political emigration, which 
had filled all the cities of Europe with tens of thousands of 
the dispossessed, the proscribed or the discontented, the 
adventurers who had picked the wrong side, the remnants 
of the armies of Denikin and Wrangel, the hosts of political 
irreconcilables and disgruntled bourgeois intellectuals, all 
the wreckage of the old order from Grand Dukes to footmen 
and petty traders, all those who had been torn from their 
anchorages, had lost their niche in the older frame of 
things, and either could not or would not fit into the new. 
And now there was this tide flowing back. It does not 
flow in enormous numbers yet, but there is a steady and 
unmistakable flow. Every ship takes its contingent. And 
upon analysis, the composition of that current turns out to 
be rather curious. It falls mostly into two cksses. The first 
are political immigrants belonging, of course, to the opposite 
party from the Czarist or bourgeois emigrants already 
mentioned. For the most part they are not Russians, and 
have never seen Russia before. They are convinced Commu 
nists, youthful enthusiasts or veterans of decades of kbour 
struggles in England, Germany, or America, who have now 
deliberately turned their backs on the countries of their 
birth and breeding to make thek homes on a soil and in a 
social atmosphere more congenial to their ingrained ideas. 

This Russian Business 

They sometimes speak a little wistfully, these elder men, and 
there are times when one catches an almost pathetic note in 
thek talk. It is only now and then, and the most part of 
them betray no such weakness. They are foil of confidence 
and good cheer ; they feel, or profess to feel, that they are 
going with undiminished courage to a scene where their 
strength will be more profitable to the common cause. 
They will help to build the workers state in Russia, simply 
because that is the most urgent job, because upon the 
success of that building depends the future of Socialism in 
the lands they have left behind. But there are one or two 
who are oppressed at times by the feeling that they are 
deserting their posts. In a sense they are beaten men; they 
go with failure in thek hands to reap where they have not 
digged. And yet it is a sort of homing instinct that draws 
them, these men and women who in their own countries 
have always been in a certain sense pariahs, living their lives 
on a note of struggle and protest, often persecuted, always 
at least subjected to a certain amount of ridicule, never 
feeling themselves quite on a normal footing, never quite 
at home with their native surroundings, always rather on 
the outskirts of the human herd. They have grown weary 
of exile and defeat; they look forward now to a more 
fruitful kbour, to marching securely under their own 
banner, and sowing in a soil where they will see the harvest 
before they die. Often enough they have had pretty stormy 
lives ; they count themselves lucky that they can turn before 
the evening and make the port on an incoming tide. These 
are all well over forty. Then there are the youngsters in 
their twenties or in thek teens. None of them have any 
doubts or misgivings at all. They have heard that the world 
is being conquered, and they only hope it won t be all over 
before they get there. 

These are the political immigrants. One realised readily 



enough that a certain amount of that sort of immigration 
was natural and inevitable, from the moment when any 
success at all appeared to wait upon the Russian adventure. 
But it was the second ckss of immigrants that rather upset 
one s preconceived ideas, those who were going to Russia 
purely for economic reasons. These formed the greater 
part of the ship s company. They were men (not women, 
except in the case of married couples) who were simply out 
of a job in Europe or America, and who were going to 
Russia because they had heard that there were jobs going 
there, and that the wages and conditions were good. They 
were all skilled workers ; they told us that according to their 
information only those were wanted. Some had contracts 
made in advance; these were the most part, A few were 
going just on the off-chance. 

One of these, a young fellow of twenty-five or six, had 
left America, not because he despaired of finding a job 
there, (he had only been unemployed for six or seven weeks), 
but because Russia rather appealed to the adventurous 
spirit in him, and also because of a certain leaning towards 
Communist doctrine. He was almost the only one who did 
not seem to fall quite distinctly into either of the classes 
mentioned. His motives were mixed, and I think the chief 
ingredient in the mixture was the feeling that it was all 
rather a lark. One does feel that way at twenty-five* He had 
very little money in his pocket, but there was plenty of go 
in him, and a fund of cheerful irreverence towards persons 
and doctrines which I fear will always keep him on the 
outer fringes of orthodoxy, at the best. He explained with 
a twinkle in his eye that he meant to call on Joe as soon as 
he got to Moscow, and point out to him what a golden 
chance the Soviet Government would be missing if it 
failed to offer him a job. When somebody asked who Joe 
might be, he explained airily that he meant Joseph Stalin, 


This Kussian Business 

and that if he had never actually called Stalin "Joe" to his 
face, that was partly because he had never met him. I ran 
into him a week or two kter just outside the Red Square in 
Moscow, and he told me he had a job in a local tool-factory, 
and was to start the following Monday. He said he hadn t 
seen Joe yet, having been rather busy with sight-seeing, 
but that he would bear him in mind : it wouldn t hurt Joe 
to be kept waiting a little. I feel that there is a future in store 
for that young man. Whether it is a pleasant one or not will 
probably depend on whether the Slavs have a sense of 
humour or not. I consulted Augustus on that point, and he 
told me that Russians were generally supposed to be rather 
deficient in that quality, but that there was said to be a new 
psychology since the Revolution, and humour might turn 
out to be one of its components. I hope so, but I have 
my doubts. 

Most of these people came from America. Some were 
American-born, others were immigrants from half the 
countries of Europe, who after various ups and downs had 
found, rather to their surprise, that they were down for 
good, and had come to the pretty definite conclusion that 
the Golden West was only golden in parts, and those the 
parts which they could not reach. They were full of stories 
of the huge wages they used to earn in the boom years, 
especially in 1929, which was to them the Wonderful Year, 
the peak point of all their recollections, the never-to-be- 
forgotten date which in itself summed up a vanished epoch. 
After 1929, the deluge, the endless morass of unemploy 
ment. They told stories of that too. Most of them did not 
seem to think it would ever end; all of them were sure the 
good old times, the marvellous nine-doUar-a-day times, 
never could come back. The men who still had jobs were 
not making the half, sometimes not the quarter, of what 
they used to get. What with low wages and broken time, 



it was easy enough to be in work and to be half-starved. 
Even if things got better, the States would only be like 
England, or France, or Germany. America, the legendary 
America of the European immigrant, was a country whose 
history came to an end in 1929. 

Some of them had signed contracts for twelve months, 
some for two years. The wages were attractive, though they 
seldom compared with the fabulous earnings of highly 
skilled workers in the fat years across the Atlantic. Still, 
as one of these men told me, it wasn t only what you got, 
it was what you could buy for it. The cost of Hving in 
America was just as fabulous as the wages, and when your 
wages were cut, or you were put on quarter-time or lost 
your job, the price of bread and meat and clothes and rent 
stayed where it was before. Anyway, he was all right for 
two years now, and he hoped it would be permanent, 
though nothing was promised. 

"Yes," said Augustus one night over our ritual noggin 
of vodka (how could one be on a Russian ship and drink 
anything but vodka?). "Yes, the poor fools are lured to 
Russia like moths to a candle flame. They think it is a 
working men s paradise. They re due for a rude awakening !" 
"What sort of awakening?" asked the School Teacher. 
"The sort of awakening you have in the morning after a 
night outl" said Augustus conclusively, if a little vaguely. 
"Yes, I know," said the School Teacher, with just the 
faintest trace of impatience in her voice, "but this man 

K , for example, the motor mechanic man, the one 

from Detroit. He says he s got a written contract for a job 
for twelve months at three hundred and fifty roubles a 
month. Do you mean that they won t really give him as 
much as three hundred and fifty roubles, in spite of the 
contract?" Augustus said no, he thought they might prob 
ably give him the proper number of roubles, but that 


This Russian Business 

wasn t everything. I cut in here with what I thought was 
a helpful suggestion. "Perhaps he will find/ 9 I said, "that 
the cost of living is extremely high." Augustus said it 
probably was, but he added rather mysteriously that he 
thought that wouldn t be the main thing. "Well, but then," 
said the School Teacher, almost plaintively, "what is the 
main thing? What do you think is wrong about it?" 
Augustus roused himself. "A written contract sounds all 
very fine and large," he said. "You can t always say before 
hand just what is fishy about it, even if you ve seen the 
contract, which we haven t. But there is sure to be a catch 
somewhere. These fellows have no idea what they re up 
against. They don t know what conditions in Russia are 
really like. They only know what they are told !" The School 
Teacher seemed to be still unsatisfied, and I left her strug 
gling with Augustus for more light. 

I found afterwards that the statement that there must be 
a catch in it somewhere was a fixed principle with Augustus 
where Russia was concerned, almost an article of faith. He 
spent a good deal of his time in Russia trying to find out 
where the catch was, and to that end, or mostly to that 
end, he carried on many conversations with a motley 
assortment of informants. Sometimes he was satisfied with 
his discoveries. More often his rather aggressive methods 
failed to draw any really adequate admissions from the 
Russian he happened to be cross-examining, but I have 
heard him explain this by the fact that of course none of 
these people were allowed to tell the truth about things. 

But to return to the immigrants; it seemed to me that 
they had, or ought to have had, a fairly good idea of what 
conditions in Russk were like, for a good many of them 
had been in correspondence with friends or relatives who 
had already gone to Russia for the same purpose. In the 
case of the man from Detroit, he had had letters from a 



cousin who had been working in Nijni Novgorod for 
eight months, and had strongly urged him to come over. 
I brought this fact to the notice of Augustus, but he told 
me that the letters were probably opened by the censor 
before they left the Novgorod post office, and no one 
would be fool enough to write anything criticising local 
conditions, which would be sure to lose him his job, at the 
very least. As I have never been in Nijni Novgorod, I could 
not refute this statement off-hand. I felt that I ought to 
have been able to make some use of the fact that Augustus 
had never been there either, but somehow I missed the 
opportunity. It also seemed to me, on thinking it over, 
that a job which one is fearful of losing must have at least 
something to recommend it; it cannot be an unspeakably 
bad job, at any rate. But I shall never know what Augustus 
would have said to that. If only I had thought of it at the 
time ! But that was always the tragedy of my discussions 
with Augustus. I could never think of the obvious answer 
until it was too late. And there is only one chance. You 
can t do it next day. It isn t sporting to set out in cold blood 
and work a man up to say again the thing he said yesterday 
just in order to shoot off a sham extempore retort that you 
worked out the night before when you ought to have been 
asleep. You must load and fire while the bird is on the wing 
or else lose your shot. But I broke this rule, at least in 
spirit, by dragging the subject in again by the heels half an 
hour later and asking Augustus whether he had any 
positive reason to believe that a censorship of the post 
existed at Nijni Novgorod, or indeed anywhere else. He 
said, no, not exactly, that is, he had no actual information, 
but there were reasons enough, if you came to that. For 
instance, to go no further than these same immigrants, the 
very fact that they were nearly all in correspondence with 
Russia and none of them seemed to have heard anything 


This Russian Business 

very unfavourable, as far as we knew, was pretty clear 
evidence that there must be a censorship, and a fairly strict 
one. After that answer I retired baffled, and left Augustus 
with the honours. Upon thinking it over, it still appears 
to me to be an admirable retort. Even now I can only think 
of one suitable reply, and that one would have to be made 
with a brick. 


JLubbing Shoulders 

WE CAME UP the Gulf of Finland at dark of night, with a 
cold wind blowing, and flurries of rain, but the squalls 
passed over, and as midnight came on, clear and calm, we 
saw the lights of Kronstadt on the sea, and then those of 
Leningrad opening out behind, growing and growing till 
they filled half the horizon. We passed into the Neva 
through a tumult of noise and illumination, sirens scream 
ing, tugs bustling about, searchlights playing on us from 
forts and warships anchored in the roadstead, small craft 
and motor-boats buzzing about like a swarm of angry bees. 
It seemed like a town of war, as if time had gone back 
fifteen years. Of course it was not all meant for us. We 
found out afterwards that there had been some kind of 
review of the fleet. This sudden energetic vision of forts 
and ships of war out of the darkness gave us our first 
impression of Russia as a material force, a great power in 
the warlike sense, something to be counted with in the 
world of hard knocks, as well as in the world of ideas. 

They told us to be ready to disembark at half-past seven 
in the morning. Augustus said we need not take this too 
literally, as nobody in Russia had the slightest idea of the 
value of time. I think he is partly right, but on this particular 
occasion I trusted him too far, and it cost me my breakfast. 
We left the ship punctually. But the examination of pass 
ports and baggage ksted for hours. However, when it 
came at kst to our turn, we found that they did not bother 
much about tourists; the examination was decidedly 
cursory. Then we went to the money-changing counter. 
We had been told not to change more money than 

49 D 

This Russian Business 

we absolutely needed, as they gave you very few roubles 
for a pound when you went into the country, and took a 
great many roubles for a pound on your departure, when 
you wanted to change the Russian money you had left over. 
But this is pure fable, as we discovered afterwards. Our 
pounds were changed into roubles at the standard rate of 
something under ten roubles to the gold pound, and our 
remaining roubles were afterwards changed back into 
pounds at exactly the same rate. 

Leningrad has at first glance rather the look of a city 
built in a hurry, as indeed it was. Peter the Great and his 
successors made large provision of palaces and public 
buildings, with ample squares opening in front of them, 
which are adorned with statues of the Czars in conspicuous 
positions. The Revolution has left these standing, in spite 
of its passion for political propaganda, or perhaps because 
of it. But the ordinary buildings that line the ordinary 
streets have a decidedly haphazard look, rather like London 
at its worst. The Nevsky Prospect is now the Octobriskaia 
Prospect, after the October Revolution, the second uprising 
in 1917, which placed the Soviets in control. Many names 
of streets have been thus changed, somewhat after the 
French example, in order to commemorate the Revolution 
instead of the Czars and the old aristocracy. Every city 
has a Karl Marx Street in it, and a Square of the Revolution, 
often an Engelskaya Prospect. Lenin of course has a whole 
city to his name, in spite of Peter the Great; and now there 
is Stalingrad, too, and a few others of the new towns. 
Sverdlov, the first president of the Socialist Republic, who 
died in 1919, has one of the krgest squares in Moscow for 
a memorial besides a Liberian city. But perhaps the month 
in which the Revolution took place furnishes the hardest- 
worked of the new names. There are October Prospects 
and October railway stations, October squares, boulevards, 


Rubbing Shoulders 

parks and institutes. Even one of the guilds of school 
children (a local form of boy-scoutery) is known as 
Octobryata, Children of October. By a somewhat analogous 
refashioning of language, the Revolution has given a new 
word to the Russian vocabulary, which is perhaps significant 
of the new outlook in Russian social life, for unfairness or 
unbecoming conduct is now sometimes stigmatised as being, 
not ungentlemanly, but unproletarian (neproktarskoe). 

One s first impression of Leningrad is that of enormous 
crowds; and it is an impression that lasts. All the streets 
seem to be thronged with people all day long, and at the 
busiest hours it is difficult to walk on the pavements at all 
(I think I have already mentioned that it is rather expensive 
to walk anywhere else). All these crowds have at first sight 
a rather drab and uniform appearance. Augustus said they 
were depressing. What could be drearier than a town where 
everybody was dressed exactly the same as everybody else? 
It was true more or less ; they were all dressed pretty much 
in the same style, and none of them were dressed very well, 
according to Bond Street standards. There were no top 
hats or frock coats or spats. And none of the women were 
at all elaborately dressed. Only one thing recalled the 
feminine crowds of London or Paris, and that was that 
many of the younger women were evidently dissatisfied with 
the faces they started life with, and had made such temporary 
improvements as their means or taste dictated. But perhaps 
the thing that gave the greatest impression of uniformity 
was the men s neckwear. We hardly saw such a thing as a 
stiff collar in all Russia, and we saw very few collars of 
any kind, except the kind which grow naturally out of the 
necks of soft shirts. In short, the whole lot of them were 
dressed more or less like working people. It was this that 
really depressed Augustus, as he afterwards admitted. He 
said if a classless society had that result, he was more against 


This Russian Business 

it than ever. But of course the crowds were to some extent 
a by-product of the- "unbroken working week/ the 
system (now partly abandoned) under which everybody 
worked for five days and then had a day off, and so on. 
This was done by shifts, and the industries thus worked 
without a break. Which meant that on any given day one- 
fifth of the working population was on holiday, doing its 
shopping or what not. And so the streets were always 
thronged, even in business hours. 

But it is the trams which give the strongest impression 
of overcrowding ; and there are reasons for that too. If you 
have cities (for Moscow is pretty much the same) where 
trams are the only means of transport worth talking about, 
where there are very few buses, no underground railways, 
and no private motor-cars at all, that has obviously two 
results. One is that there are always far too many people 
in the trams. Every tram, at all ordinary times, is literally 
jammed with people. Perhaps one-third of the passengers 
get a seat. For the rest there is not even standing room. 
However, it does not matter much, even if they fail to get 
their feet on the floor. Everybody is jammed so tight that 
it is quite easy to remain upright without any support at 
all from one s own feet. 

That is one result of having only a single means of 
transport, and it is often an extremely uncomfortable result. 
But the Western bourgeois visitor quite evidently suffers (if 
he is subject to suffering of that kind) from another and 
even more serious discomfort, namely, that he is forced to 
rub shoulders (literally) with the working cksses, that is, 
with people he never sees at home, except at a certain 
distance, and with whom he certainly never comes into this 
kind of direct physical contact except on rare occasions. 
From long use and habit even the fringes and lower strata 
of our middle class are accustomed to this highly artificial 


Rubbing Shoulders 

separation. In London the clerk and the counter-jumper go 
to and from their work at a different hour from the labour 
ing classes; they get into thek bus or tube at a different 
station, and they get out at a different station. They don t 
live in working-men s suburbs, or go to working-men s 
eating-houses. If they poke thek heads inside a restaurant 
door and find the pkce full of people in thek working 
clothes, they go somewhere else. They drink in bars where 
working men do not go, or else they go to the "private" 
or "saloon" side of the same bar and pay a penny or two 
pence more for thek drink. It is a remarkable phenomenon, 
when one comes to think of it, this neurotic shrinking of 
the English bourgeois from any sort of personal contact, 
let alone fellowship, with the working cksses, and one 
cannot but wonder at the extent to which the middle 
cksses, even the lower middle cksses, have succeeded in 
building up an artifickl watertight world of thek own to 
live in how they dwell in the midst of all this sea of the 
English people as a sort of people apart, a nation within a 
nation, almost as much strangers and foreigners as they 
would be in Paris or Berlin. 

Well, here they can t do it, and that brings them up with 
a round turn. To begin with, in Russia practically the whole 
popuktion belongs to the working cksses. Of course there 
are categories of people one dare not call them "cksses"; 
that is a word one must be very careful about in Soviet 
Russk there are categories, then, of people who perform 
hard manual kbour, and other categories who work in 
shops and offices and so forth. The former are the "workers" 
par excellence, in the local Communist jargon, and are the 
most privileged cksses. The clerks and typists and so on 
are distinguished, even in Russia, by the fact that they don t 
have to dkty thek hands. But they are not distinguished, 
as in England, by the fact that they have a better coat on 


This Russian Business 

their backs and wear a collar and tie, nor yet by the fact 
that grocers and policemen, will call them "Sir." Russian 
policemen don t call anybody "Sir." They address everybody, 

without distinction, as "Comrade/ even when But 

enough of that. To return to our clerks and secretaries ; 
they are in no respect socially superior to carpenters and 
bricklayers. If there is a difference, they are the inferior 
ckss. But when you pass them in the street or squeeze 
more intimately against them in the tram, they are absolutely 
indistinguishable from the "workers." Augustus says you 
can tell them because they wash more often, but when 
invited to pick some of them out by that test he failed 
miserably. He says further that if they all dress alike, it is 
not because the "worker" has a better coat than in the 
Western countries, but because the shop assistant has a 
worse one. Here I think Augustus is undoubtedly right. 
But he finds it a matter for gloom, and there we part 
company./If starched collars and bkck coats are really a 
measure of civilisation, then Russia at the moment is in 
a very backward state. One is reminded of the traditional 
English aristocrat in the tropics, who lives at his outpost 
of Empire on the edge of the jungle in the midst of naked 
savages, and sweats profusely all day long in a helmet and 
a cotton shirt, but who nevertheless insists on dressing for 
dinner every evening that God makes, boiled shirt and 
dinner-jacket and all, though the temperature may be a 
steady ninety-two in the shade, and the perspiration 
rolling visibly off his brow (and invisibly, but much more 
profusely, off every other part of him). He performs this 
uncomfortable ritual by way of preserving his self-respect, 
even though he may be the only white man for tniles. And 
if he comes where there are enough Europeans for social 
life, he will dance in the same fantastic rig-out, bringing six 
or eight collars with him to a party. I tried to impress 


tubbing Shoulders 

Augustus with these strange facts, but I found he had lived 
in the Straits Settlements, and knew more about them than 
I did. And he insisted on being edified instead of amused. 
He said it might be uncomfortable, but it was part of the 
white man s burden. "But it s insanitary !" I said in a pained 
voice. "In those climates nobody should ever wear anything 
that can t be washed. Nobody ever does, except at night. 
But you can t wash your dress suit!" "It doesn t matter," 
said Augustus firmly. "Self-respect is more than sanitation !" 
and he meant it. Of course logical consistency is Augustus s 
favourite vice. But though most of us are not quite so 
downright about it, I fancy we are all more or less tarred 
with the same brush. We all feel rather different when we 
have our Sunday clothes on. It is not for nothing that the 
ribald song lays down the doctrine : 

If you don t wear a collar and a tie, 
You won t go to Heaven when you die! 

It is no use denying that we have rather a tendency to 
judge ourselves and our neighbours in terms of haber 
dashery. We do feel that there is something not quite 
right with a country where everybody s coat is the worse 
for wear, and everybody s collar (if he has one) is rather 
frayed at the edges, and most of the population are distinctly 
behindhand with their shaving, and nobody s shoes are 
really properly polished. 

"Wei]/ says the School Teacher, "but that does rather 
worry me. I know you ll tell me that clothes are meant to 
keep people warm, but surely smartness does count for 
something. I don t say it matters tremendously, but I would 
rather see people better dressed. I don t mean that one 
ckss should be better dressed than another, but why 
shouldn t they all have good coats to their backs, and shave 
themselves in the morning, and clean their shoes properly?" 


This Russian Business 

I glanced idly at her own shoes (keeping mine well under 
my chair). "Yes, I know/ she said, "they don t do me any 
credit. But that is because that cheap tin of polish you 
bought at the stall yesterday is no good. I worked on those 
shoes for a quarter of an hour, and that s the best I could 
do." It seemed pretty clear that it was all my fault. But kter 
on we discovered that all the shoe-polish available anywhere, 
without exception, was equally bad. It was all oily, and 
while it made quite a good dressing to keep the water out, 
it was no use whatever as far as producing a shine was 
concerned. But it was cheap. Similarly, we found out that 
there was a reason why there was almost as much stubble 
on Russian faces as in Russian fields. It was quite simple. 
There were at that time practically no barber s shops even 
in Leningrad or Moscow, except at the hotels, and there 
was an extraordinary dearth of razors. The Moscow 
authorities made some attempt to cope with the shaving 
difficulty by providing several scores of shops where for 
a trifling charge the Muscovite could hire a razor and other 
accessories to remove the undergrowth from his face. They 
had evidently managed to scrape up a few score or a few 
hundred razors for that. But to find (that is, to make or 
import) a few hundreds of thousands or even millions of 
razors for individual use was evidently still beyond their 


Odious Comparisons 

IT is NOT only traffic arrangements and clothes and razors. 
As one sees more of the country, one cannot help getting 
the impression that there is, and has long been, a con 
siderable deficiency in most of the articles and arrangements 
which make for comfort and convenience. The footpaths 
are often badly paved and inadequately repaired, especially 
in the side streets, and the roadway surfaces are far from 
faultless. In these respects Moscow and Leningrad are much 
on a level with Athens and Constantinople, not with London 
or Paris or Berlin. Only in the Russian cities there are some 
signs that the arrears are at kst being taken in hand; there 
are repair works in progress which make many sections 
of streets almost impassable. Then the sanitary arrangements 
in hotels, railways and other public pkces are often a little 
below the mark. These pkces generally seem to be clean 
once in the day, but they have a way of degenerating 
towards evening. Then the bathrooms (where they exist) 
have a tendency to be out of order, and even definitely 
out of commission. To get a bath, a complete bath of one s 
whole person, is always a very difficult and complicated 

Augustus was at first inclined to blame Communism for 
all this. But after we had managed to decipher some of the 
frenzied pkcards with which all public conveniences were 
pkstered, and had seen some other signs of the incessant 
and almost passionate official propaganda appealing for 
public cleanliness in this and other directions, he relented, 
and began to ascribe all these defects to the Skv tempera 
ment. It seemed to me that several centuries of poverty 


This Russian Business 

and wretchedness might have had a good deal to do with 
it. Water-closets and bathrooms are unknown to man in a 
state of nature. The well-known nobility of the savage is 
attained entirely without their aid. These arrangements are 
among the minor gifts of a kborious civilisation, and most 
of history has transacted itself without them. It is not so 
long since our own forefathers despised the very notion 
of such things, and I doubt if there is any country in Europe 
where they can even now be said to be in universal use. 
And where they are of comparatively recent introduction, 
it is natural enough that they should not at first be very 
well looked after. When whole populations are forced to 
live in hovels, you cannot expect them to have the same 
habits as if they lived in pakces, or even in service flats, 
at any rate, not unless you are quite sure that your own 
behaviour would suffer no deterioration if you spent the 
rest of your lifetime in a hovel. The trouble is that the 
amenities of civilisation always begin in pakces, and the 
inhabitants of pakces have usually shown a regrettable 
kck of zeal in popukrising new inventions and improve 
ments. The English baron of the Middle Ages did not wash 
any more than he could help. When his descendants took 
to morning tubs, and even found that they were rather 
pleasant, they did not start a crusade for popularising the 
use of tubs among farm labourers. That is just where 
Russian Bolshevism is different, or, as Augustus would say, 
pretends to be different. The whole point of Bolshevism, if 
it has a point (which Augustus denies), is to popularise the 
advantages of civilisation. For present-day Russia the guid 
ing principle in these matters is that the available supply of 
comforts and amenities is to be thrown into hotchpotch, 
as the lawyers say. There is to be no engrossing of civilisation 
by a moneyed class, to the detriment of the rest of the nation. 
Whenever there are not enough of the fruits of civilisation 

Odious Comparisons 

to go round, there are obviously two possible solutions of 
the difficulty. Either a privileged class can have enough, 
which is more than their fair share, and the masses of the 
people can have what is left. Or else everybody can share 
alike, in which case nobody will be very comfortable, and 
probably nobody will be desperately uncomfortable. Up to 
the present there has never been enough to go round. There 
are not to-day anything like enough civilised amenities, 
even of the plainer kinds, either in Russia or in Western 
Europe, although Russia is worse provided than we are. 
In Russia everybody has to put up with the same discom 
fort and inconvenience for the time being. In the West the 
standard is high for those who can afford it, and much 
lower for all the rest, and this difference extends even to 
the barest necessities, the elementary decencies of life. No 
one who has ever pottered about the meaner districts of 
Southern European cities will maintain that there are 
enough water-closets for the poorer population, or that the 
ones that exist are anything to be proud of. The more 
northerly countries do rather better. But they could easily 
do better still, especially in city slums. 

And as for washing, the difference between a backward 
country like Russia and a country like France or England 
is perhaps not so great as it looks, nor is the advantage, 
such as it is, of any very long standing. There are still a 
good many English homes without bathrooms, and such 
a thing was decidedly a rarity not so many years past, 
especially in working-class houses. Wherever there is no 
bathroom, the frequency of the bath naturally diminishes 
as the difficulties increase. It is true that the Englishman s 
dailytub used to be a matter of national pride; but of course 
that was pure legend. There never was any such thing. 
The only Englishmen who took daily tubs were those who 
were in a position to dodge the labour of getting them 


This Russian Business 

ready, which labour they handed over to other Englishmen 
(or Englishwomen) who themselves belonged to the com 
paratively bathless classes. Where the matter rested on the 
normal healthy basis of doing one s own dirty work, it is 
safe to say that the national standard of cleanliness never 
exceeded the level of the Saturday-night bath. Well, in 
Russia one doubts if the average ablutions are anything like 
as frequent, especially amongst the peasants, and for that 
state of things Augustus and I are agreed to blame either 
the way in which God made Russians, or the historic 
system of squeezing Russia for the benefit of the boyars 
and the Romanoffs. 

All such comparisons between country and country are 
odious, but the trouble is that one cannot possibly help 
making them. There is no absolute standard of sanitation 
or personal cleanliness or comfort or convenience, or any 
of the material advantages of civilisation. Where we thought 
the Russian standard was good, we meant that it was about 
as good as our own, or better; where it seemed bad, what 
we were thinking of was that things were better done in 
England. It is the easiest way to judge, and obviously the 
right way. Only one must be sure that one is comparing 
analogous things. One must compare Russian conditions 
with the conditions of the English working classes, not 
with the conditions of Londoners living in the West End. 
The West End is not a fair sample of London. But, roughly 
speaking, every part of Moscow is a fair sample of Moscow.^ 

Even upon that standard/ Russia does .seem to be at 
present obviously behindhand, though not as much as one 
at first believes. The original cause lies in a thousand years 
of history, and is aptly symbolised, by the Russian grandees 
who walked about Elizabeth s audience chambers dropping 
both pearls and vermin. It is the pearls, in some degree, 
which account for the vermin. The immediate cause is a 


Odious Comparisons 

negative one ; no ruling power in Russia until the Bolsheviks 
(and they only in these latter years) has ever made the 
slightest effort to reform these things. Of course it is possible 
to explain the matter quite simply, without any troublesome 
searching out of remote causes. If you do not like Com 
munism, the most obvious and satisfying explanation is that 
Communists, qua Communists, do not wash, and so on for 
any other defects that you notice. But that is rather too 
easy; it is too obvious that all these things are of long 
standing. If we blame the Bolsheviks for those drawbacks 
of Russian civilisation, the Bolsheviks may blame the 
Coalition Government for the slums of London, and then 
it will be anybody s dog-fight. The sins of Bolshevism lie in 
quite other directions. In fact, the attitude of the present 
regime on these matters is clearly to be counted to them 
for righteousness. It is impossible not to be impressed by 
the scope and intensity of the effort now being made to 
overcome all these faults, both by the introduction of 
rigorous measures of public sanitation and by a wide and 
vigorous propaganda among all sections of the population. 
Augustus was rather amused by the naweU of some 
Government propaganda in favour of washing which he 
had got hold of, where statistics were given as to the 
increasing use of public bathing establishments. He used to 
assert unblushingly that it was part of the Five Years Plan. 
He said that every local Soviet had to show results according 
to a fixed programme : so many millions of baths to be 
taken by 1931, so many more in 1932, and what he rather 
aptly called a complete liquidation of the unwashed before 
the Plan ended. But he never produced his authority for 
these ribald statements. 


"U.S.S.R. In Construction" 

so MUCH FOR cleanliness, which we all know to be next 
to godliness, a virtue, this last, to which the Bolsheviks 
cannot reasonably pretend. Some way after these two 
qualities there come those other matters of roads and 
razors and clothing and the like. These are plainly in a 
different category. They are not, on the face of them, 
things which have been defective from time immemorial. 
Nor does it seem plausible to put them down to racial 
temperament. Most people will consent to wear good 
clothes if they have them. Everybody would rather not 
walk on broken and muddy pavements. One s attitude 
towards the hair on one s face may be a different matter. 
Certainly some people prefer to let it grow altogether, and 
Russians, even real Russians, are rather given to that. 
But the people who remain permanently half-shaven just 
for the fun of it must surely be in a minority. At any rate 
you can hardly blame their temperaments for it until you 
have supplied them with razors, or otherwise enabled them 
to get a shave without walking a mile to the nearest barber s 
shop and waiting an hour or two for their turn. 

All these are needs to be met by the provision of various 
commodities or services year by year, and even month by 
month. If there was a justifiable and quite inevitable dearth 
ten years ago, it does not follow that there ought to be 
a dearth now. It is not a question of deep psychological 
faults impressed by long centuries in the human material, 
against which the most active kind of efficiency might for 
many years spend all its energies in vain. These are material 
practical tasks, and a few years at most should be 

"U.S.S.&. In Construction" 

enough to overtake arrears, if the will and the wealth ate 
there. It may be true that the Czars did no better, even 
that in some things they did much worse. Certainly the 
working men who were shot down in the streets of Peters 
burg in 1905 were far more ragged (if pictures may be 
believed) than the crowds who now encumber those same 
streets. Nor, I am told, were the streets of Petersburg any 
better mended then than they are to-day, and I believe 
that the streets of Moscow, which was not then the capital, 
were a good deal worse. And it is pretty evident that both 
housing and sanitation are on the whole somewhat better 
than before. But it is clear that all that is only partly to the 
point, even when the utmost allowances have been made, 
and the benefit of the doubt bestowed wherever it may be 
called for. A social order that challenges the whole civilised 
world cannot rest upon its laurels, and justify its pretensions, 
merely on the ground that it is not so bad as the Russian 
autocracy. Let us admit that there may be progress, even 
considerable progress. But progress upon an order, or a 
disorder, so dark and evil, so anachronistic and altogether 
shameful as Czarist Russiais surely not a matter for excessive 
self-congratulation. Half the world expects better things 
from the new Russia. The other half expects worse things 
before the end. 

Of course there is an answer to that kind of criticism, 
and it is quite obviously a valid answer for the time 
being. It is this, that the time for judging has not yet 
arrived, that criticism must await the event, that you 
cannot reasonably find fault with a dinner before it is 
cooked. The Communist has still the right to cry patience, 
to say that all this will come in good time. Although the 
education of backward peoples is certainly the most diffi 
cult of all tasks, the business of clothing and housing them 
and providing them all with the ordinary amenities of life 

This Russian Business 

is also no mean enterprise. This is a task with which the 
most advanced countries in the world, after one hundred 
and fifty years of industrial Capitalism, are still grievously 
behindhand. Russia has so far had but a bare dozen years 
of peace to labour in, and even that period began with the 
most disastrous famine in her history. It will surely be 
reasonable to wait at least another ten or fifteen years 
before demanding news of the completion of a task which 
Europe still makes rather a mess of after more than a 
century s progress. 

Well, let us by all means wait, since needs must; and 
if we hesitate to condemn the Russian effort before it has 
had time to unfold its energies, perhaps we shall be on 
better ground for deprecating the Russian criticism of our 
millions of unemployed, our burning of corn and coffee 
to keep the prices up, our efforts to restrict the production 
of things that thousands go hungry for, and all the other 
wild and wicked happenings which we generally blame on 
to the World Crisis, as if the Crisis were some kind of 
uncontrollable and malignant Joss whom we had un 
wittingly offended, and not the very work of our own 
foolish hands. 

But even if common fairness requires the main question 
to be postponed, there is one difficulty of a more immediate 
kind. For, even admitting that the rate of progress in 
Russia is as fast as any reasonable man could wish, the 
fact still remains that progress is not equal all along the 
line. Certain departments of economy are definitely behind 
the rest, .and they are not the most difficult ones. It seems 
a little strange that the constructive forces of Russia, which 
have apparently made a reasonably good job of running 
ships and managing railways, growing corn, producing 
butter and timber and petrol, mining coal, manufacturing 
steel, even making machinery, should at the same time be 


" U.S.S.R. In Construction" 

comparatively far behind in these other matters, especially 
as some of them appear to be quite vital matters. The 
most vital of all is housing. Of course all Europe suffered 
from a desperate housing shortage after the war. If during 
four long years the money and energy which normally goes 
into building houses is spent in knocking down and burning 
other people s houses, it is natural enough that when 
several millions of soldiers at last come home they should 
discover that they have no homes to go to. But since then 
the richer countries have got somewhere near catching up 
arrears of building. Russia is still among the most back 
ward. Even before the war the bulk of the population was 
very badly housed. And then the Russians (not without 
gratuitous help from the Western Powers) spent an extra 
year or two, after everyone else had finished, in knocking 
houses down instead of putting them up. The result is 
that the housing shortage in the cities has been and still 
is very acute. Here again the levelling up process has been 
at work, and this has somewhat mitigated the congestion. 
All the available accommodation is pressed into the general 
service. The palaces of the aristocrats and the spacious 
homes of the rich have been requisitioned for the public 
need; accommodation is strictly rationed, and an extremely 
jealous watchfulness by interested parties (and few people 
are so satisfied with their present lodging as not to be 
interested) ensures that nobody monopolises more than 
his fair share. But even so everybody is extremely cramped* 
Single men and single women often sleep four, ten, twenty, 
forty to a room, according to the nature of the accommo 
dation available. If you hear that anyone is lucky enough 
to have a room to himself or herself, you can be pretty 
sure that the room is not big enough to hold two beds. 
Stalin and his family have two small rooms in the Kremlin^ 
and the President of the Republic is no better served. 

65 E 

This Russian Business 

It is true that building is now going on upon a fairly 
large scale in most of the cities, and the rate of progress 
is not slow. But this activity is only of very recent date, 
and as the population grows by leaps and bounds, it will 
probably be a long time before arrears are overtaken. The 
new accommodation, mostly consisting of so-called com 
munal houses, is of an excellent type, and is eagerly sought 
for. The two main principles of allotment appear to be 
that "workers" (i.e. manual workers) have in general the 
preference over other applicants, and that those whose 
present quarters are the most unsatisfactory have the first 
claim on the new accommodation. 

But in spite of this quite considerable new effort, housing 
obviously ranks even now with those branches of Russian 
economy already mentioned, which lag far behind the 
tempo of general progress, so that one gets a sort of 
impression that they have been neglected or forgotten for 
years. And it seems rather puzzling that this should be so, 
until one realises that the whole explanation is in that 
word of order which one hears repeated so often, "but of 
course the factories must come first ! J> As soon as one has 
properly assimilated the fact that of course the factories 
must come first, the whole thing becomes as plain as a 
pikestaff. There is one and the same explanation at the 
bottom of housing shortages and second-rate clothes and 
crowded trams and muddy footpaths and all the other 
thousand and one little discomforts of life in present-day 
Russia. These things have not been so much forgotten or 
neglected, as they have been deliberately postponed. It is 
the Five Years Plan once more. Whenever you get to the 
bottom of anything in this country, you always find the 
Five Years Plan. You are continually being reminded that 
.contemporary Russian life is genetic, not static, that you 
are not gazing on a condition of things, but watching a 


" U.S.S.R. In Construction" 

process. The old Russia is gone ; the new Russia is being 
built; it is a partly realised idea, not a completed organic 
whole. They label it so: "U.S.S.R. In Construction/ as 
if it were the skeleton of some half-finished skyscraper, 
all cement piles and steel ribs and girders, with scaffolding 
all over it, and a world of workmen busy hammering rivets 
or puddling mortar; donkey-engines buzzing, cranes lifting 
beams to the upper stories, and a huge yard all round the 
base filled with disorderly heaps of building material, and 
surrounded by a fence with inhospitable notices, cc No 
Admittance except on Business." And it really is like that, 
and even though you are allowed in to see the works going 
on, you sometimes have a feeling of being rather in the 
way, as if you ought to have waited till the opening day, 
and then to have come there in your Sunday clothes and 
listened to the speeches. Only it is not a skyscraper that is 
being built, but a country, a social order, and even in 
some sense a nation ; it is the common life of millions on 
millions of men that is being constructed. All building is 
costly, and the resources of Russia are terribly scanty. 
The main things have to come first; whatever is essential 
to the general plan must go forward at all costs ; whatever 
is less urgent must be postponed. First let us have the 
machinery of life; its amenities will come later on. In that 
ruthless trying and choosing, the bare necessities of per 
sonal existence are all that can be strictly afforded; luxuries 
must be dispensed with for the time being, even ordinary 
comforts and conveniences have to be brought down to 
bedrock. If it is a choice between razors and reaping 
machines, it is clear that the harvest must come first. It 
is a policy not always very logically carried out ; something 
must be allowed to human weakness. But in the main the 
Plan is so conceived and so executed, and if the inevitable 
result is that Russian life meanwhile is arranged upon a 


This Russian Business 

somewhat Spartan scale, this does not appear to mean, for 
the working population, that commodities are scarcer or 
life harder than they were in pre-war days, but only that 
the rate of progress, the degree of improvement upon 
Czarist times, is slower and smaller than it might other 
wise be. 

Of course the story is not new. Russia is not the first 
country to transform itself laboriously from a poor agricul 
tural country to a rich industrial one. A hundred years 
ago, more or less, England and France and Germany were 
busy with the same task, and on that occasion also the 
enterprise was somewhat complicated by the waste and 
exhaustion of a great war. Then also, the accumulation of 
the capital necessary for construction on a large scale 
involved much hardship and suffering. Yet however history 
repeats itself, there is at least one quite novel element in 
the Russian version of the story, and that is that the sum 
total of inevitable hardship is equally spread over the 
whole population, whereas in those other countries the 
misery of the poor paid for all. At least, so the Russians say 


How Much is a Rouble? 

HOW MUCH HARDSHIP there really is in Russia, what the 
present standard of life amounts to in comparison with 
other countries, is one of those questions on which most 
of us feel that we should be a little clearer in our minds 
if we had not heard quite so much about it. To begin with, 
it is evident that not everybody means the same thing by 
hardship. To some it means going hungry and barefoot; 
to others it means doing without luxuries. And we do 
not all draw the same line between luxuries and necessities. 
There are plenty of people who would rather go short 
on boots than on cigarettes, and many a wench will save 
on her lunches to buy lipstick. And since the standard of 
comparison is so personal a thing, it is often difficult to 
set a value on impressions of well-being or otherwise 
brought back by travellers, or even on the confessions 
of those who have lived in the country for a long period* 
For example, the correspondent of a leading Paris news 
paper made a tour of Russia in the autumn of 1931, and 
his impressions of social conditions in that country, which 
were mostly unfavourable, were duly published on the 
front page. Amongst the elements on which these impres 
sions were based was a conversation in Moscow with a 
Russian kdy who spoke perfect French, and had evidently 
lived abroad in happier times. She, aftet looking this way 
and that, confided to the correspondent, in a whisper, 
that life in contemporary Russia was hell (c est Fenfer). 
This rather startling generalisation, however, was imme 
diately somewhat discounted by a complaint that it was 
practically impossible to purchase silk stockings except at 

This ULussian Business 

prohibitive prices. As no other specific instance of the 
infernal quality of Muscovite existence was mentioned, one 
felt compelled to disregard that piece of testimony, at least 
provisionally, and to continue elsewhere the inquiry into 
the heavenliness or hellishness of Moscow life. But it was 
easy to realise how very much one might have been misled, 
and how exaggerated a value would have attached to the 
lady s generalisation, if the silk stockings had been left out 
of the story. As it was, the journalist commiserated with 
the unhappy woman on the necessity of clothing her 
charming legs (he says he said textually, "vos jambes char- 
mantes, Madame") with a baser fabric; and then they 
forgot their squalid surroundings in talk of Paris, where 
silken legs are recognised as the inalienable right of every 
woman who has any legs worth looking at. 

But if one turns from lending a sympathetic ear to ladies 
confidences, and applies oneself to direct observation, the 
difficulties are still very considerable. Certainly one can 
form some notions as to what clothing is usually worn, 
and as to several other matters not without importance. 
But the scope of one s observations is somewhat limited ; 
one does not get anything like a comprehensive view of a 
city s life merely by watching the citizens walking about 
its streets, nor even through such scanty opportunities as 
one has of seeing them at work or at play. One test of 
welfare, or rather of ill-faring, which is often appealed to, 
is the extent to which shop queues exist. Everybody has 
seen the queues in Russian cities* These are common 
enough. Certainly they are not as a rule very long queues, 
not nearly so long as those outside the cinemas. They all 
seem quite orderly, and there does not seem to be any 
struggling or disputing about pkces, nor any policemen 
or other officials supervising them. As far as one can see, 
the people seem to get the things they come for. These 


How Much is a Roub/e ? 

are mostly groceries and articles of clothing, and also meat. 
There do not appear to be any bread queues. Personally 
I never saw a queue breaking up because the kst article 
was akeady sold, so that I am ignorant whether that ever 
happens or not. Although the queues are short, they often 
seem to stay there a good while. The people seem to get 
in and get their business done with reasonable speed, but 
the tail-end of the queue (if a tail can have a tail) is con 
stantly renewed by fresh arrivals. I suspect that a good 
part of this standing in queues is due rather to the insuffi 
ciency of shops than to the scarcity of the commodity. 
And this seems to be partly borne out by the fact that 
bakeries and places where they sell bread-stuffs, which are 
very numerous, do not appear to have queues in front 
of them. 

It is easy to exaggerate the importance of queues as an 
index of want or scarcity. A queue is surely rather an 
index either of inadequate machinery for distribution, as 
where the shops or the men in the shops are not enough 
to deal with the needs .of the customers at rush hours, or 
else of badly managed rationing. You may have the most 
acute scarcity of the most essential commodities, and you 
may ration them down to the extreme limit, but there is 
no earthly need for queues because of that. The queue 
forms (apart from the above-mentioned faults in distri 
bution) either because there is no rationing system at all, 
and the first to come are the only ones to be served if 
supplies will not go round, or else because ration tickets 
have been issued for more beef or boots than there are in 
the store, which is an indication of the incompetence of 
the rationing authorities, far more than of the extent of 
the scarcity. If the rationing system were intelligently 
managed, you might easily have shortages and scarcities 
down to sheer starvation-point, and never one single queue. 

7 1 

This Russian Business 

On the other hand, the existence of queues does not 
necessarily imply a scarcity at all. Even the theatre lines 
do not really prove that there are not seats enough for 
most or even all of the people waiting. Probably they 
will all get in. It is a question of better seats and worse 
seats, and probably half the time the game is not worth 
the candle. It does not require the pressure of sharp need 
to make people stand in queues. The thousands on thousands 
of Western women who wait long hours for the doors to 
be opened at bargain sales, and who on occasion (if tales 
be true) fight like furies and tear each other s faces and 
furbelows in order to purchase a lace remnant or a yard 
of ribbon for twice its value (reduced, for that morning 
only, from five times its value) these Maenad crowds are 
perhaps scarcely to be taken as conclusive evidence of the 
extreme scarcity of gewgaws among British women. And 
then too, the queue is something of an institution in 
%issian shops, even in the special shops where tourists 
and other foreigners are catered for, and no question of 
rationing or scarcity arises. You buy the articles you want 
in various parts of the establishment, and then you spend 
anything from five minutes to a quarter of an hour standing 
in a queue at the cash-desk before you are allowed to pay 
for them. But then there are grocers in London who do 
the same thing. 

One might suppose that the appearance of the people 
standing in queues would give some inkling of how well 
they were fed, at least. My own impression of those I saw 
is that they were average-looking in that respect. But 
Augustus says they almost all looked pinched and half- 
starved, as far as he remembers. Upon this I made a deter 
mined canvass of the whole party. Five people said they 
looked plump and well fed. Six agreed with Augustus. 
The remaining ten or eleven said they did not notice par- 


How Much is a ILoubh ? 

ticularly. So there you are. Of course those ten or eleven 
were just the people who were neither Communists nor 
anti-Communists. One of the most distressing things about 
these visits to Russia is the almost complete inarticulateness 
of all the people who have not got bees in their bonnets* 

Perhaps the most obvious way of judging the standard 
of living is to find out, if you can, what is the income of 
the people. This would seem at first sight to be the safest 
of all tests, but even that fails in Russia. It is easy enough 
to find out what people are paid, but the real question is 
what they can buy for this money,, and that is a good deal 
less simple. It is admittedly practically impossible to make 
any useful generalisation about the cost of living, and that 
for several reasons. If a typist gets 100 roubles a month, 
or a factory worker anything from 250 roubles onwards, 
that means on the face of it an income (at par) of about 
two pounds ten a week, or a little over six pounds a week 
respectively, as a minimum. But when one translates thai 
into bread and boots and suits of clothes and chocolates 
and tickets to picture shows, the difficulties become enor 
mous. In the first place, money translates into bread on 
quite a different scale from that on which it translates into 
chocolates or cinemas. Bread costs perhaps the same as in 
England, or a little less. Plain substantial meals for work 
men are rather cheaper. Meat at a shop is probably rather 
dearer, though not much. But a seat at a cinema costs 
three or four times as much as in England. So do choco 
lates and scent and beer and wine and tobacco. Roughly 
speaking, very roughly, necessaries are fairly cheap and 
luxuries are enormously dear. 

So that to form an impression of the degree of welfare 
of the Russian worker relatively to workers in other 
countries, one has to calculate first of all what his neces 
saries cost him, and this obviously involves the ticklish 


This Russian Business 

business of drawing a line and deciding which things are 
necessaries. If this sum is deducted from his wages, it will 
leave a certain surplus. Russian wages are relatively high, 
and there seems little doubt that this surplus is nominally 
considerably greater (at any rate for skilled workmen) than 
the surplus of the corresponding kind of worker in England 
or France or Germany. But the normal use of a surplus is 
to buy extras, amusements, luxuries. And the question still 
remains whether the Russian worker with his larger surplus 
can buy more or less of the expensive Russian luxuries, 
than the English worker with his smaller surplus can buy 
of the cheaper English luxuries. 

It is evident that the question has already got rather 
complicated. But that is by no means the worst. The trouble 
is that in Russia the amount you can buy of any commodity 
does not entirely depend on how much money you have 
got. It also depends on who you are. The price to one 
category of purchasers is often quite different from the 
price another category has to pay. This is the famous 
ticket and ration system. If you are (let us say) a factory 
worker, you are issued with bread tickets, meat tickets, 
boot tickets, clothes tickets, and so on, which entitle you 
to go to the State shops and get your bread or your boots 
or your suit of clothes at a price enormously less two or 
three times less than that charged to one of the non- 
privileged classes, a private trader for example. So that 
the workers rouble for these purposes is worth two or 
three times as much as the traders . Yet there are certain 
limitations. For your workman s tickets only cover a certain 
rationed quantity of goods. If you are allowed two suits 
of clothes a year and you want three, the third may easily 
cost you more than both the other put together. And so 
with other commodities. Moreover, there are complications 
within complications, for the privileged classes (that is, 


How Much is a double ? 

the working classes) are not all equally privileged. The 
ration of the manual worker is larger than that of the clerk, 
and the "shock workers," those who for the carrying out 
of the Plan have volunteered to work after hours, or at 
a forced rate of speed, or at extra jobs, are the best treated 
of all. And now lately there is superimposed upon all this, 
in certain Industries, a system by which the claim to cheap 
rations may be increased or diminished according to the 
quantity and quality of the work done. And it should be 
added that most of these arrangements are subject to 
modifications and tinkerings of various sorts at fairly short 

There are yet other complications, but let those serve. 
Taking it altogether, it is obviously almost impossible to 
boil down into a single generalisation one s casual impres 
sions of a state of affairs so extremely complex and piece 
meal. And I think one is forced to conclude that the data 
are far too scattered and shifting for any conclusion as to 
the level of general well-being, drawn simply from figures 
of wages and prices, to be worth very much. There remain 
only one s stray impressions of poverty or welfare resting 
upon direct observation, and these, however partial and 
doubtful, are probably the least unsatisfactory of one s 
sources of information. That is, for one s own purposes. 
For any other the matter is perhaps hopeless ; for though 
I may honestly declare my impressions to be thus or thus, 
we know how easy it is to be deceived, and no one can 
ever be certain that I am not prepossessed by some favour 
able trifle, or prejudiced by brooding over a dearth of 
silk stockings. 

One extremely ambiguous index of the Russian standard 
of living is the enormous consumption of highly priced 
luxuries. Chocolate and lipstick may cost unconscionable 
sums, but the typist and the factory girl buy them just the 


This Russian Business 

same, and plenty of them. And the fact that the people 
in the cafes are rather shabbily dressed does not prevent 
them from steadily smoking expensive cigarettes, and con 
suming beer at upwards of four shillings a bottle. It is true 
that cafes are rather scarce, much scarcer than in any 
European city except London, and no doubt this is prin 
cipally due to the large number of co-operative clubs 
which provide the same amenities at a considerably smaller 

Then there are theatres and picture shows. The theatres 
draw great houses most of the time, in spite of astronomical 
prices. The cinemas are not so dear, but in Moscow it is 
almost impossible to get a really good seat in an average 
show under four roubles (8s. 4d. or so) or often to get 
any seat at all under about half that sum. But every cinema 
(and they swarm) is crowded out every night of every 
week that God makes, and standing in queues to get seats 
is one of the principal national sports. 

Of course all this reckless expenditure has certain fairly 
obvious explanations. To begin with, a Russian s wages 
are not normally the sole support of his family. Even with 
us in these times it is not uncommon for a married woman 
to go out to work and earn a separate income. But it is 
still the exception. In Russia it is the rule. The stay-at-home 
wife is in the minority, a state of things greatly facilitated 
by the tremendous growth of communal dwelling-houses, 
cr&ches, factory restaurants, communal laundries, and 
similar devices for relieving the wife of the burden of 
constant domestic labour. And if this arrangement of both 
partners working doubles the domestic income, or some 
thing near that, it is evident that it much more than doubles 
the margin available for luxuries or quasi-luxuries after the 
strict needs of life have been supplied. 

Then also a Russian worker has little or no incentive 

How Much is a Rouble ? 

to put away money. When one considers the ordinary 
motives of saving, it is fairly clear that most of them have 
little force in a Socialist society, or even in a society only 
partly Socialist, provided its members are persuaded that 
that order will endure and perfect itself Of course there 
are exceptions. A man may save spasmodically for special 
occasions, in order to spend again, though perhaps there 
is hardly so much of that in these fatal and ingenious days 
of purchasing on time payment. But such as it is now, that 
sort of thrift might no doubt continue undiminished, how 
ever the structure of society were changed. But when it 
comes to steady saving, the case is surely otherwise. Here 
the chief and master motive is the fear of poverty, the need 
to provide beforehand against a cessation of income which 
in our tumultuous and disorganised society cannot be 
securely avoided, and can only be foreseen in the sense that 
out of a number of likely chances one or the other is nearly 
sure to happen sooner or later. It is safe to say that few 
workmen pass their lives without being once or several 
times out of work for long periods through no fault of 
their own, whether by slackness in the trade, failure of 
the employer, accident, sickness, or what not. It is then 
that the worker turns to his nest-egg, the money he has 
put by week after week by dint of denying himself or his 
family some immediate satisfaction or contentment, some 
use of their passing lives which they might otherwise 
have had. 

But if a developed and stable Socialist order is at all 
possible, the best gift it will have to give its citizens will 
be a sense of security, the certainty that the work which 
is their living will be as permanent as any mortal thing 
can be, or at least that any temporary dislocation of industry, 
any enforced idleness, will not expose them to the chance 
of disastrous poverty. Now it is quite clear that the present 


This Russian Business 

Soviet economy (which of course even its nearest friends 
do not claim to be a perfected Socialist order) does really 
tend in that direction ; and that is evidently one respect in 
which the Russian worker is really better off than others, 
unless all Russian social legislation exists only on paper, 
and there seems no reason to believe anything of that 

Roughly speaking, every worker has a right to support 
out of the industry to which he belongs, so long as he on 
his part fulfils the essential duty of honest and conscientious 
work. If he falls sick the industry pays his wages. If he is 
kid off for any reason except bis own wilful fault, the 
industry pays his wages, till work is found for him again, 
either in that industry or in another. And of course in a 
planned economy, so long as the pkn does not utterly 
break down, unemployment on any krge scale or for long 
periods is impossible; it is a matter of occasional rearrange 
ments and temporary adjustments. Russk is at this moment 
the only great nation on earth with practically no unem 
ployment whatever. That position has now lasted for some 
years, and as long as the system at all endures, it is hard 
to see how the position can be altered in the future. If the 
Five Years Plan disastrously fails, we may look for the 
deluge; everything will break; there will be no Russia to 
talk of. But if the Plan succeeds, or even partially succeeds, 
it seems certain that such partial and temporary dislocations 
of particukr industries as do now occur from time to time 
will become less frequent and less serious as the national 
economy gets over its growing pains and becomes estab 
lished on a more permanent basis. 

It used to be one of the stock arguments against the 
sockl legisktion of the kst fifty years or so that if any 
kind of provision for the needs or misfortunes of the 
individual were made at the common cost, this would 


How Much is a double ? 

undermine the virtue of thrift in the lower orders. And 
in those days thrift was very highly thought of, and many 
well-disposed persons belonging to the comfortable classes 
were genuinely anxious that this good thing should not 
be taken from the poor. 

And however it may go against the grain in these spend 
thrift post-war days, one is compelled in mere honesty to 
admit that they were partly right. Thrift is indeed a virtue, 
and in spite of cheap jokes about Scotchmen, it is a funda 
mental and constructive virtue, one of those virtues which 
distinguish the men and women who bear up the weight 
of civilisation from the half-wits and wasters who do their 
perilous best to pull it down. But many virtues depend 
upon some hard necessity which calls them forth, and if 
the need is once removed, the virtue is irrelevant; it cannot 
exercise itself in the void. Thrift, private thrift, the thrift 
that saves up pennies, is the counterpart of anxiety; it is 
the soul s reaction against insecurity. One saves for a rainy 
dayj and the more circumstances make one dependent on 
the weather, the more praiseworthy it is to save. But the 
Russian with his superfluous roubles is, by hypothesis, in 
a different position. As was said akeady, in this so much 
longed-for Socialist order no one is ever to be anxious or 
insecure; the job is sure to kst, or if it does not, the pay 
will go on just the same. Never mind whether that is now 
true or not, nor whether it will be true in the long run. 
What is important for the moment is that the Russians 
obviously believe that it is now true, and that it will be 
still more true in the future. Therefore they feel that they 
need not save, and it will take more than the shade of 
Samuel Smiles to change thek opinion. But people who 
need not save have obviously all the more to spend, and 
so the money goes, even though beer is a dollar a bottle. 
Of course there are other motives for saving. The classic 


This Russian Business 

virtuous working man according to Smiles saves his pennies 
and "rises in the world/ that is, he becomes a small capital 
ist, and after further saving, combined with honesty and 
strict attention to business, he becomes a krge capitalist, 
perhaps even a millionaire. But you cannot easily become 
a capitalist, krge or small, in a country where nine-tenths 
of all the trade and industry is already in the hands of the 
State, and where, if things go according to programme, 
the remaining tenth will also be nationalised long before 
you have saved anything considerable. Then many people 
save in order to invest the money in stocks and shares, or 
otherwise ky it out at interest, so that in the end they may 
have an income independent of their own labour. But in 
what shall one invest money in a Socialist country? And 
even if one invests it abroad, the difficulties are not small, 
especially as the importation and exportation of currency 
is practically forbidden, and the exportation and importa 
tion of goods, unless by licence, is a State monopoly. And 
there are still graver objections. For a worker who puts 
money into a private business or otherwise invests it at 
interest, and draws an income from that, immediately 
becomes pro tanto a capitalist, an exploiter of the kbour 
of others, a "rentier." In the final result he becomes a 
member of the unprivileged classes, one might almost more 
truly say, of the penalised classes. He gets no more ration 
tickets; the purchasing power of his hoarded roubles, and 
of all the other roubles he gets, is halved or quartered at 
a single blow. And then he loses his position and social 
consideration, he is a kind of pariah, almost an enemy of 
society, a person to be tolerated at best. And he loses all 
political rights as well; as an "exploiter," a "rentier," he 
has neither vote in any election nor voice in any delibera 
tion. He is no longer a member of his Soviet nor eligible 
for any public employment; he will be lucky if he does 


How Much is a Rouble ? 

not become politically suspect. Taking it all round, it is 
hard to see how the game could be worth the candle. 

Certainly most of what has been said rests upon the 
assumption already mentioned that the Russian population 
looks to the future with confidence, that they are satisfied 
that they will always be as well off as they are to-day, or 
better off, and that they have no serious doubts of the 
permanency of the regime by which the conditions of that 
welfare are guaranteed. 

But Augustus avers that none of these things are true ; 
that the apparent confidence of Russians in the continuity 
of the present order and the security of life and work is 
only a surface phenomenon; that in their hearts they are 
full of doubt and dismay ; and in short, that they are only 
whistling to keep their courage up. I am persuaded that 
he is mistaken; but even if it were so, it is clear that the 
psychology he thinks he discerns would also lead to spend 
ing. For the only practicable alternative to spending is to 
hoard roubles ; and if the regime is unstable, the rouble 
is like fairy gold and may turn to ashes over-night, so that 
the most thrifty thing to do with money is to spend it as 
quickly as possible. 

So for one reason or another we are agreed that the 
contemporary Russian (at least in the towns) spends what 
ever he gets, and this may be one element in the impression 
which everybody seems to gather, that he does have a good 
deal to spend. 

But sometimes too one cannot help feeling that any 
questioning as to the relative well-being of Russian workers 
is in a very real sense beside the mark. For in one very 
important respect the things compared are not at all parallel. 
In spite of all the complexities mentioned, one can perhaps 
form at least some vague and doubtful idea of his actual 
present standard of life, even though this sometimes seems 

81 F 

This Russian Business 

to lead to the topsy-turvy conclusion that he Is rather 
worse off than we are for necessary things, and rather 
better off for luxuries. But here again we cannot escape 
from the all-pervasive Five Years Plan. We obviously have 
to take into account in some way or other the fact that the 
whole present organisation of Russian life and work is 
directed to serve the needs of a huge constructive enter 
prise, that is, towards acquiring and building up plant, 
machinery, factories, and all sorts of going enterprises, out 
of the surplus proceeds of industry from day to day, or in 
other words, towards accumulating capital on a krge scale 
out of what would otherwise be expendable income. Which 
obviously boils down to this ; that although the individual 
Russian may be spendthrift, collectively he is putting by 
enormous sums of money, or rather investing those sums 
in what will at some not distant day be exceedingly profit 
able enterprises. That is, if the Plan succeeds. When the 
large-scale industrialisation of the land is completed, the 
accumulation of money to pay for the process will no 
longer be necessary. The monthly or yearly tribute out of 
industry will cease, and for the future all that wealth will 
flow back again into the wages fund from which it came. 
Whether that reflux takes the form of further rises in wages, 
or of reductions in the price of commodities, makes little 
difference; the result is the same. The difference, the essen 
tial difference, between the situation of the Russian and 
that of the Englishman or the German, is tlfet the Russian 
is himself both worker and capitalist. He is collectively in 
exactly the same position as a struggling factory-owner or 
small working capitalist in Western countries, who for the 
present lives meagrely, in order, to have more money to 
build up the business out of which he expects to live on 
a larger scale in the future. 

Nor is the theory of the Plan quite so Spartan as a hasty 


How Much is a double ? 

review might suggest. The main hope of improvement is 
postponed till the completion of the term, but some small 
comfort there is meanwhile, and it is small only by com 
parison with their extravagant hopes (if they are extravagant) 
and not by comparison with the past, nor even with the 
rate of progress abroad. The Plan itself provides for pro 
gressive improvements during the five-year term in hours 
of labour, housing, and real wages; that is, wages con 
sidered on terms of the cost of living. As Augustus grace 
fully puts it, a few bones have been flung to the workers 
to keep them quiet. How much meat there is on those 
bones, or, in more pedestrian knguage, how far the promises 
of the Plan are actually being realised, is a question which 
brings us into the regions of acrid and unprofitable contro 
versy. The Soviet Planning Commission, which ought to 
know, and which is probably as candid as most Government 
bodies elsewhere (a rather faint kind of praise), says that 
during the first three years of the Pkn effective wages rose 
on the average by eighteen per cent. But that is a kind 
of calculation we have had so much of since the war that 
it no longer makes much impression on the minds of a 
generation which has grown rather agnostic on such 
matters. The improvements in the hours of kbour are more 
obvious and easier to test. In all factories the normal 
working hours are now seven a day a level not generally 
reached elsewhere in Europe or America. And the intro 
duction of the six-day week (with or without the "unbroken 
working week") gives every worker one free day in every 
six (for which he is paid) instead of one in seven as formerly. 
These (for as long as they last) are obviously positive gains. 
So that one way or another there may be a good deal of 
indirect (and even unconscious) collective thrift to set 
against the spate of personal spending. And as far as reliance 
on such things may be regarded as an explanation of cheer- 


This Russian business 

fill extravagance in the matter of luxuries, it obviously 
does not matter whether the official story of social better 
ment is true in every detail, or false from the bottom up. 
It is clearly sufficient if the population believe it to be 
true. And to persuade populations that they are better off 
than they are is, of course, one of the principal cares of all 
prudent Governments, just as persuading them that they 
are worse off is the chief employment of every opposition. 


Living Communally 

WE ALL KNOW how the meaning of words changes, but it 
has not been as much noticed that their emotional content 
changes too* The rallying-cries of one generation leave 
the next generation cold, but they will still shout for (or 
against) some other phrase which means exactly the 
same. "Socialism" and "Communism" are words of this 
kind. There is no doubt that in these times the term 
"Communism" is by far the more effective irritant of 
the two. It stimulates most people to either positive or 
negative reactions. Nearly everybody is determined to 
die in the kst ditch either for it or against it. But 
you can t arouse so much excitement about Socialism. 
Certainly the English morning newspapers still religiously 
kbel Labour politicians "Socialists," and the Labour Party 
the "Socialist Party," with the obvious view of crying 
them down, but one doubts if anyone ever voted against 
them on that account. In Austria, on the other hand, 
the Conservative papers insist on calling their opponents 
"Marxists," and nothing else. But in England you could 
not bait even the most choleric Tory by calling him a 
Marxist. He would probably stare at you for a moment 
and then reply coldly that he was a member of the Church 
of England, or that you must be thinking of somebody 
else of the same name. But if you called him a Communist, 
you would stand a very fair chance of provoking a little 
honest indignation. Of course for a good many years 
"Socialist" was a really useful term of abuse. But by the 
time the war broke out the man in the street had got used 
to Socialism, although his notions of Socialist doctrine may 


This ULussian Business 

perhaps have been still a little crude. It was still possible 
to impress him with the absurdity of a "Saturday night 
divide. * And the fact that workers in that cause were 
accustomed to address and refer to each other as "Comrade" 
still furnished material for threadbare jokes, when nothing 
more could be done with Scotchmen and mothers-in-law. 
But there was a mild autumnal flavour about this ridicule 
which did not even distantly recall the fury of the earlier 
invective. In Victorian times the Socialist attack on wealth 
was answered by the allegation that Socialist leaders were 
godless and immoral persons, that they never went to 
church, and kept several mistresses each out of the profits 
of demagoguery. But by 1914 all that was definitely out of 
date. One no longer heard very much of the personal 
wickedness of Socialist leaders. People had ceased to care 
much whether other people went to church or not, and 
even accusations about free love were not the draw they 
used to be, except perhaps in America. So that to be a 
Socialist was by then almost consistent with certain inferior 
lands of respectability. 

Then the Socialist organisations, like everything else, 
went through the crucible of the war, and came out changed, 
in their case considerably for the better. Western Socialists, 
at least, ceased altogether to be godless and immoral. Their 
somewhat doubtful and shaky pre-war respectability had 
become a solid and unquestionable thing; they began to 
wear stiff collars, and became pillars of the State. 

The reason for this change was, of course, that they 
had ceased to be Socialists, except in a Pickwickian sense. 
In several countries, immediately after the war, the Socialist 
parties formed governments, and took the reins of power 
into their hands. The breathless nations waited for the 
next Saturday night, to see how much it would pan out. 
But there was no divide. Nothing at all happened. And 


Living Communally 

after a while everybody realised that nothing much was 
ever likely to happen. The nations breathed out again, 
remarked casually that they were jiggered, spat on their 
horny hands, and went on with the job. 

But a certain number of the rank and file supporters of 
the Socialist parties became very angry. They accused thek 
leaders of treachery, corruption, turning their coats, and 
what not. And they split off, these unreasonable literal 
men, and formed a party of thek own. Of course they 
had to find a name for it. To call it the "Real Socialist 
Party" or the "Only Genuine Socialist Party" would have 
seemed a little feeble. Besides, there was a precedent at 
hand. In one European state, Russia, there was a Socialist 
Party in power which, while it was daily accused of almost 
everything else, could not possibly be accused of inactivity. 
And it had just baptised itself the Communist Party. So 
the Western dissidents boldly threw the old name over 
board altogether, and called themselves Communists too. 
The word was of course far from new. But Socialism had 
supplanted it for most purposes, and had long enjoyed 
the exclusive right of spelling itself with a capital letter. 
Now the tables were turned. 

The term "Communist" is unfortunately not quite so 
clear in its meaning, except to the initiated. It suggests the 
primitive Christian "community of goods." It has associa 
tions with the mediaeval "commune," in the sense of a 
self-governing town. It has, of course, historical and 
doctrinal connections with the body that ruled Paris in 
1870, until Thiers made his unholy bargain with the 
Prussians. And it is vaguely cognate with adjectives like 
"common" and "communal," and suggests to the minds 
of many people all sorts of things such as eating at a com 
mon table, belonging to the same savage tribe, having 
wives in common, and what not. 

This Kussian Business 

Now most of these associations are quite extraneous to 
the plain meaning of the word as now used. But even quite 
reasonable and educated people do nevertheless often 
wonder how far Socialism, or Communism (which they 
usually take to be a specially virulent form of the infection), 
implies holding or performing in common various kinds 
of personal property or personal activities which seem to 
them to belong peculiarly and necessarily to the individual 
alone. The abstract question has little interest; it is too 
much in the air. But how far in Russia does it actually 
happen that the personal life of the ordinary citizen is 
lived perforce in a closer and more intimate contact with 
other lives? What inroads, if any, does the working out 
of Socialist doctrine make on ordinary private life? In a 
word, is the human hive any less human and any more 
of a hive in Russia than out of it, and if so how much? 

To begin with, there is of course the famous story of 
the decree for the community of women. It is said that 
there really was some vague resolution in that sense passed 
in an excited moment by the local soviet of a village 
somewhere near the Urals. Whether that be so or not 
the story as presented to the supposedly credulous public 
of Western Europe had of course its origins very much 
nearer home. I could never quite make out how the thing 
was supposed to work. Presumably all the women in a 
given district were lined up every six months or so, and 
the male population drew lots for first pick. Whether it 
was obligatory on the last man to take what was left, or 
whether he had the option of "passing," as in card games, 
was never really clear. It would be interesting also to 
speculate on whether a woman-hater who happened to 
draw the first number out of the Soviet hat would be 
free to put his rights up to auction if he liked. Of course 
six months may not have been the term. I don t remember 


Living Communally 

that I ever saw any time mentioned. Perhaps it was a week. 
Or perhaps it was only a day & kind of game of musical 
wives. I fully intended to make conscientious inquiry into 
all these points, but unfortunately the Russians applied to 
for information did not seem to have ever heard of any 
such arrangement. And as many of them were women, 
one would have expected them to know about it. No, I 
am afraid that Russia is not the paradise for bachelors that 
it is cracked up to be. In the most essential point, marriage 
is hedged about with the same unnecessary fuss, the same 
ridiculous red tape, as in our own country. You still have 
to get the woman s consent. It is not right. It is not revolu 
tionary. It is not nearly as shocking as I hoped it would 
be. But it is the disappointing fact. 

But quite apart from romantic tales of that sort, every 
body agrees that there are really some cases where people 
are thrown much more together than with us. In some 
hotels, in most hostels, and in all sorts of buildings and 
parts of buildings converted from their original purpose 
into living accommodation, it is common to have krge 
rooms with five, ten, twenty, or thirty beds in them. In the 
Peasants Hostel in Moscow, that caravanserai where every 
peasant may stay three days almost for nothing whenever 
he comes to town upon his affairs, they have dormitories 
with from forty to fifty beds. The common table is a 
regular institution in the eating-houses of factories, com 
munal lodging-houses, collective farms, and so on. In an 
ordinary hotel it is common to see five or six men in 
various stages of morning undress waiting their turn at 
the single water-tap in the washing-room. There is a basin 
under the tap, but one need not mention that, because no 
one ever uses it, at any rate not for the purpose of collecting 
water. The jet from the tap shoots upwards, and you catch 
the water in your palms on the descending curve. II is 


This Russian Business 

not quite so convenient as using the basin, but I have 
been assured that it is more hygienic. Anyway, you can t 
use the basin even if you want to, because it is not provided 
with a plug. I don t mean that the plug has been lost. 
There never was a plug. 

Then there are some public or semi-public places for 
the washing of clothes, such as one sees in most Continental 
towns. In the communal houses there are similar facilities, 
but most of the tenants have their washing done in the 
communal laundry, which is extremely cheap. Then of 
course there are creches everywhere : cr&ches at these same 
communal houses, where the women leave their babies 
when they go out; cr&ches at all the factories, cr&ches at 
hospitals, creches at peasants rest-houses, creches at 
workers clubs. 

These are trite and familiar instances, and the list might, 
I should think, be extended considerably. They do obviously 
tend to create an impression of people living in some 
respects a good deal closer to each other than they do in 
Western Europe. But on second thoughts one realises that 
nearly every one of these examples is ambiguous in one 
way or another. For one thing, there is that tremendous 
housing shortage, a problem of necessity peculiarly critical 
in a country where war and famine kept building at a 
complete standstill for almost nine years, and where at 
present the annual increase of population is almost three 
millions. But that difficulty will disappear in time. Mean 
while there is little sense in reading far-fetched political or 
doctrinal explanations into so very obvious a set of facts. 
The plainest reason for sleeping twenty to a room is that 
there are twenty people and only one room, a reason which 
will disappear as soon as nineteen more rooms are built. 

Then of course in another way one s data are still more 
ambiguous, and this for reasons already mentioned in 


Living Communally 

another connection. The degree to which people are thrown 
together often depends largely upon their resources, upon 
how far the nature of their living accommodation makes 
privacy possible. This would seem to boil down to a 
question of riches and poverty, and no doubt that is the 
first and substantial cause of all such differences, but the 
cleavage may be accentuated by psychological factors, by 
ingrained prejudice or mere inveterate custom. 

In Western Europe there is a very clear division between 
the kind of accommodation provided for the labouring 
classes and the kind provided for people who work with 
their collars on. The division may be right or wrong, 
snobbish or merely matter-of-fact, but it is always there. 
There are working-men s lodging-houses and middle-class 
lodging-houses, workmen s restaurants and "better class" 
restaurants, and so on. But in Russia all this accommoda 
tion is now thrown into hotchpotch. There is in general 
no setting apart of the more select apartment house or 
the superior restaurant, except for the comparatively few 
places where luxury is sold to Nepmen and the richer 
tourists at almost incredible prices. And one result of this 
general levelling tendency is to make comparison some 
what difficult, especially for visitors from the West who 
belong to what Russia still describes, with a shade of con 
descension in these days, as the intelligentsia, that is, the 
educated classes. For in the West it is precisely among the 
"intelligentsia" that social prejudices, and the secret sense 
of caste, are often at their strongest. These classes in 
England (and everywhere else) are often very badly paid. 
In many cases they are far worse off financially than skilled 
workmen. But for all that they do not live like workmen 
nqr mix with workmen. They cling tenaciously to the 
remnants of a genteel existence. They still segregate them 
selves in residential suburbs and spend too much on 

9 1 

This Russian Business 

clothes, and when they eat abroad they will always pay 
sixpence mote for their dinners in order to have them 
"served nicely." The result is that most of the so-called 
educated classes have really very little notion of how life 
is lived by the working classes in their own country, and 
even what they do know does not readily occur to their 
minds as a standard of comparison for life abroad. And 
when one does begin to ask how much of this apparently 
half-communal way of living in Russia might be almost 
exactly paralleled by the ordinary existence of the labour 
ing classes in English cities or on the English countryside, 
one is apt to find that the real differences are very much 
smaller than they seemed, and that a good many of them 
disappear altogether. Then again perhaps some allowance 
has really to be made for the Slav temperament. The 
miniature fountain and the bottomless wash-basin are 
obviously a much older institution than the Soviet power, 
and one suspects also that the habit of washing at a common 
fount (even when some sort of provision does exist in 
one s bedroom) is not a practice imposed from above by 
doctrinaire despots, but rather a habit formed long ago, 
which the slow-moving Russian mind has not yet discarded. 
Plenty of Englishmen wash their faces at the pump to 
this day. But when advancing civilisation brings them 
wash-basins, they mostly accommodate themselves to a 
changed world, and use the basins instead. It requires an 
almost Oriental conservatism to deliberately instal miniature 
pumps above the basin, and to mutilate the basin so as to 
convert it into a mere sink; and all for the sake of dodging 
the necessity of inventing a new set of motions when 
performing one s toilet. 

All told, the "communal" side of Communism in Russia 
(in that strained sense of the word) seems to boil down to 
very little. And so far as one can see, the nationalisation 


Living Communally 

or municipalisation of property has kept strictly within 
the time-honoured definition "the means of production, 
distribution, and exchange." A man rents his own house 
or his own flat or room, and if he does not own it, his 
rent is so reasonable that he probably does not want to. 
He does own his own furniture, even in "communal 
houses," and in spite of the heated imaginations of Western 
journalists, neither his wife nor his shirt is held at a weekly 
rent. He has, or refuses to have, his own piano or his 
own wireless set, and if ever Russia becomes rich enough 
(which it probably will do unless it crashes altogether) I 
cannot see anything whatever to prevent his owning his 
own motor-car. The Russians may still have some "com 
munal" habits which seem a little strange to Westerners, 
but that is a matter of national peculiarities and not of 
economic systems. Many Americans, for example, have a 
habit of dispensing with fences or hedges between their 
gardens and the street, as also between their gardens and 
the next-door gardens; and that seems to many English 
people an unfortunate sacrifice of privacy. But in America 
the practice does not appear to be regarded as any evidence 
of Communist sympathies, or of any sort of "Red" twist 
in the minds of those householders. And if it were evidence 
of that, the Americans would know. They have a decided 
flair for that kind of thing. 

Hard and Soft 

THE TRAIN TO Moscow leaves from the October Station, 
an imposing building which faces one of the busiest squares 
in Leningrad, They call it Insurrection Square, in remem 
brance of the decisive incident which took place there in 
the February Revolution, when the Cossacks went over 
to the people s side. In the midst of the square the massive 
equestrian statue of the Czar Alexander III still stands for 
an enduring remembrance of the tyranny which that 
insurrection at last overthrew. All those monuments of 
the Czars have been carefully preserved, and at first this 
seems a little surprising under a regime so eager to remake 
everything from top to bottom. One might rather have 
expected to find revolutionary monuments substituted for 
these Peters and Pauls and Alexanders sitting booted and 
spurred on their chargers. But with all the new Russia 
surging about their pedestals, one can perhaps divine a 
deliberate policy in this attitude of the Soviet power, as 
it were a kind of symbolic triumphing, and also a gesture 
of warning, as if those colossal images of a conquered 
arrogance were so many eloquent sermons on the text 
"Lest we Forget," a standing reminder to the new genera 
tions that as they are the heirs of that struggle, so also they 
are the only custodians of that deliverance. 

It was raining when we arrived, but the spacious entrance- 
hall was brightly lit, and all the station was thronged. 
The waiting-rooms were, somewhat surprisingly, full of 
peasants, sitting on the benches or squatting on the floor, 
waiting patiently for their trains. Many of them were eating 
and drinking, some were playing cards or a game with coin 


Hard and Soft 

that seemed to resemble two-up. Others were fast asleep, 
with heads pillowed on their bundles. They had evidently 
come in from the country by all sorts of odd trains, and 
as it had been raining most of the day, they had pitched 
their camp in the station itself. We found that the Russian 
station generally partakes more or less of the nature of a 
caravanserai. In this country of great distances and few 
railways, peasants must almost always come a long journey 
to the station, and as many of them cannot read the official 
time-tables, and probably even those who can do not trust 
them too far, they make shift to arrive several hours before 
hand, and then dispose themselves leisurely to take their 
rest and refreshment, not doubting that God will send a 
train sooner or later. 

When we got to our own train we found that it also 
was crowded with peasants. It was a picturesque and rather 
exotic-looking crowd, a world of weather-beaten men with 
grizzled faces and thick rough beards, all clad in strange 
costumes, furs and sheepskins and shepherds caps, leather 
jerkins and long cloaks, belts and sashes and long boots. 
Then there were the women with complicated peasant 
draperies, wooden shoes, and shawls over their hair. It 
was a throng that seemed to contrast strangely with the 
humdrum citizens in the streets of Leningrad. Those were 
all modern men, and like all city-dwellers they seemed 
more or less cut to a pattern. But these were different, 
they looked more like crowds out of old Russian story 
books. There was something Oriental in their aspect; they 
made one remember that there was a Tartar strain in 
Russian blood. 

There was not really so much of a crowd as it seemed 
at first, though the train was full enough. But the impression 
of multitude was partly due to the innumerable packages 
of every shape and size, containing, as it seemed, most of 


This Russian Business 

the worldly goods of the passengers. There were men, 
women, bags, boxes, swags, spades, saws, kettles, samovars, 
bundles, babies, hens, geese, ducks, and vegetables all 
jumbled up together. All of them that were capable of 
movement were moving about, and all in different direc 
tions ; all of them that had voices were talking nineteen 
to the dozen, and whatever creatures could only quack or 
cry or chatter exercised those lesser talents to the utmost 
of their powers. It seemed like market-day in Noah s ark. 

We sorted ourselves out more or less after the train 
started, and found out some things about Russian trains 
that we had not known before. We were travelling, as 
becomes the poor, third class. But in Russia you do not call 
it that. To begin with, there are only two classes. So there 
are in England, of course, and yet one of them is called 
the third class. But the Russian mind is not so subtle as 
that. However, the classes are not called first and second 
even there. They are known as "soft class" and "hard 
class." In hard class the seats are not provided with 
cushions. At night, however, mattresses and bedding can 
be hired from the conductor. The bedding was clean and 
comfortable enough. But the real hardness of hard class 
is not so much a matter of wooden seats, but rather consists 
in the fact that instead of sleeping in a separate compart 
ment, four to a box (with a certain control of your own 
ventilation), you are in a sort of rather primitive Pullman 
car with fifty or sixty other passengers. Everybody had a 
place to stretch out, as far as I could see, but there was 
hardly enough fresh air for all those people to breathe; 
and after several hours with the windows closed, the 
slightly stale odour of human perspiration, flavoured with 
the exhalations from the onions that Ivan Ivanovitch had 
for supper, tends to produce an atmosphere rather too rich 
for Western nostrils. It wouldn t matter if the windows 

Hard and Soft 

could be opened now and then, even for a few minutes; 
but unless it were high midsummer, what Continental train 
had ever a window open? 

I went to sleep and forgot it, but was wakened after an 
hour or two by somebody coughing. I was getting off again 
when somebody sneezed. It appeared that at least fifteen 
people had colds, and their throats and noses kept exploding 
on different notes and from different directions every three 
or four minutes. And there were other vague noises that 
seemed to become audible whenever there was a lull in 
the coughing. After half an hour of this kind of irregular 
sniping, I decided to wake up completely and look about 
me. That was one thing at least that nobody could prevent 
me from doing. 

Augustus was sleeping the sleep of the just. I now realised 
that one of the lesser noises that had puzzled me was his 
snoring, a sort of low continuous rumble resembling the 
distant sound of cartwheels on a lumpy road. I wondered 
that he slept so soundly, but he was probably exhausted 
by a lengthy discussion he had had with a Russian fellow- 
traveller, a young woman whom her neighbours called 
Natalia, on the matter of these hard and soft classes on 
the Russian railways. That was just after we had settled 
down. Augustus was displeased with that nomenclature, 
or else pretended to be for the good of Natalia s soul. 
Why couldn t they call them first and second classes, as 
the very same accommodation used to be called before the 
Revolution? He said it was a mere pitiful pretence, a cheap 
evasion of the necessity for admitting that there were 
different cksses in the people too, upper and lower cksses, 
rich and poor, privileged and not privileged, even in this 
Communist paradise. Augustus almost always referred to 
Russia as "this Communist paradise" when he was dis 
pleased with the country. Natalia defended herself against 

97 G 

This Russian Business 

this onset with considerable energy, but as I had heard most 
of the plaintiff s case before, I fell asleep in the middle of it. 

I got up cautiously and looked out of the window. It 
was deep midnight, with a few white clouds floating in a 
clear sky. We were passing through high dark pine forests, 
with sometimes a patch of birches, and the full moon 
shone through the tree-tops. The ground was covered 
with white frost. 

A baby started crying in the carriage. The mother 
wakened and comforted it. After a while she began to croon 
a lullaby. This wakened some more people, and after a 
certain amount of turning over and grunting several muffled 
conversations started, and began to thrive. 

In the midst of this I heard a voice asking me if I had 
a match. It was Natalia. She was rolling her forty-second 
cigarette for that evening, and I could see that her eye 
was far too bright for slumber. We exchanged thoughts 
upon babies, coughs and pine forests. Then she asked me 
did I, too, think that there was just as much ckss distinction 
in Russia as in Europe, and that the Communists were 
themselves the new bourgeoisie, only under another name. 
This evidently referred to a portion of the argument which 
had gone on while I was asleep. I rather wanted to wake 
Augustus up and tell him to hold his own baby, but my 
better nature prevailed. I explained that I had my own 
doubts upon all those matters. It seemed fairly clear that 
in these trains, just as on ships and in theatres, you could 
still buy privileges, special treatment, for hard cash. In 
theatres the excuse we used to make on the ship is still 
partly available, namely, that from the way a theatre is 
built there must of necessity be better and worse seats. 
But with trains there is surely no such excuse. As far as 
the haulage is concerned, a carriage is a carriage. You can 
quite easily make all the accommodation of the same kind, 


Hard and Soft 

If you don t do that, if you maintain cksses, and if you 
mean that to be a permanent arrangement, surely you 
ought to stop talking about equality, about ckssless societies 
and the abolition of privilege. You must surely admit at 
any rate that you have compromised, that you have admitted 
exceptions and limitations to those principles, that your 
society is a mixed one, with elements of privilege. And if 
you still claim that your sockl structure is essentially 
different from that of the rest of Europe, you must surely 
base this only upon the general preponderance of the 
principle and the atmosphere of equality, in spite of these 
not small exceptions which you admit, either temporarily 
or permanently, for some reason or other of practical 
convenience or public profit. 

Natalia did not reply at once. She was busy rolling 
another cigarette. She lit it from the stump of the first, 
and began to smoke in a meditative sort of way. "I think 
it is not quite so," she said at last. "It is true : there is some 
compromise with the principle. There must always be 
compromise. We do not live otherwise, we poor human 
beings." She paused for a moment, and then went on, 
"It is not only the ships and the trains and the theatres. 
There are the living quarters too. Those are not very 
different now, not for the same kind of people. I mean 
single people and married people, and so on. But they 
will be different. Where I live in the northern quarter of 
Moscow, I have a small room, oh, very small. Just now 
I can have no other roomf because there is a great shortage. 
But after all the communal houses are built, I shall be able 
to have a better room, if I pay more. Or two rooms, or 
three. But I shall not want three. And then there will 
always be dresses, more or less expensive. And cigarettes, 
and ornaments, and all kinds of things." She was silent. 
"Then you agree that there is no real equality after all?" 


This Russian Business 

I asked. "No/* she said. "Not that. It is not so unequal 
as you say. We do not all want the same things. See, I 
smoke twenty cigarettes a day, perhaps thirty. When I can 
get them, that is. And I roll my own. It is cheaper. But 
you, you do not care to smoke much. Two or three cigar 
ettes a day, is it not? Even if you have not much money, 
you can afford expensive cigarettes, when I cannot. Or if 
you smoke these," and she waved the one she held between 
two fingers, "you have more money left, and you can 
afford a better seat in the theatre. But because I choose to 
spend more money on cigarettes, and you choose to sit 
more comfortably at the play, we are not unequal, do 
you think? Or perhaps if we go by sea, you will buy the 
most comfortable berth, with krge windows opening on 
the deck; and I, who do not become sea-sick, will save 
that money, and furnish my sitting-room at home, or buy 
the pictures that I want. It is not unequal. It is fair enough." 
It did seem fair enough at first. But I remembered that 
wages were not the same for all workers in Russk, even 
then, and I reminded Natalia of the late decree that (at 
least till the Plan was completed) these differences were 
to be increased, giving a much greater premium for skilled 
work. If everybody had as much money to spend as every 
body else, no doubt it did not matter if it cost more to sit 
in the stalls than with the gods, and it was one s own 
fault if one travelled hard ckss on the railway. But if some 
had more money and some less, and money bought privi 
leges, how could you say that all were equal, or that society 
was no longer divided into cksses?" Natalia nodded. 
"It is true !" she said. "It is that which makes the difference. 
I do not know " and there was a slightly puzzled 
frown on her brow, "I think perhaps it will not be so 
after the Pkn is accomplished. We must have patience. 
Many things are necessary in a time of struggle that are 


Hard and Soft 

not desirable, things that can be done away with when 
the struggle is over. But we shall know in time. We will 
never tolerate classes. If things as they are do not give us 
equality, we will alter them. There is a way of working it 
out, and we shall find it. Do not fear!" Her voice had 
risen slightly, and her dark eyes had the light of faith in 
them. I seemed to recognise the authentic Bolshevik spirit. 
The words were the words of a bit of a wench smoking 
cigarettes in a railway train, but the voice was the voice 
of Russia. She was a daughter of the Revolution, and if 
she once came to the conclusion that the Revolution had 
not revolved far enough, she would make it revolve some 
more. You could never beat that spirit. And all at once 
I became full of doubts and hopes. I began to think that 
perhaps Augustus s hard facts never could be so hard but 
the fire in Russian eyes would melt them. What the reaction 
complacently calls "human nature" might be a refractory 
thing, and quite insoluble in theories, but were not human 
will and human passion a far stronger solvent? 

Meanwhile meanwhile Augustus is surely right. The 
problem of equality is not yet solved, whether it ever can 
be solved or not. On that field the battle is still a drawn 
one : the struggle stands at a pause. And yet, in spite of 
everything, I do not find it possible to doubt that there 
is a way, as Natalia says, and that Russia will find it sooner 
or later. And even if the way when found should turn 
out not to be identical in all respects with that written in 
the books of the doctrine, that would at least be a welcome 
proof that not even the dead hand of Marxist tradition 
can prevent the free development of Marx s ideas. And no 
doubt some forced interpretation ad hoc may always be 
found to save the face of orthodoxy. Or perhaps (who 
knows) by then the doctrine of literal inspiration may have 
definitely gone by the board. 


This Russian Business 

Yet even now it seems to me that there is an enormous 
difference between Russia and Europe or America in these 
matters. After all, those obvious inequalities are not the 
whole story. There is another side to it, a positive side. 
The superstructure of inequality may be left standing, at 
least in part, but the foundations have been shaken and 
undermined. The building now stands on sand, and no 
great push is needed to overturn it. For there are many 
kinds of equality between man and man, but the great 
and master kind, that on which all the others are based, is 
equality of opportunity. Even if some have more power 
or more money than others, it is clearly a considerable 
mitigation of that situation if all had an equal chance to 
win those privileges. In feudal societies privilege is frankly 
hereditary: opportunity does not exist for those outside 
the circle. The complacent theory of modern democracy, 
so-called, is that opportunity is equal for all, that every pit- 
boy may become a coal-owner, every office-boy a million 
aire, and that every soldier carries a marshal s baton 
mystically strapped up somewhere inside his pack. But of 
course we know in our hearts that all that is sheer bunkum, 
the paltry patter of a confidence trickster. It is a matter 
of proportion, and the proof of the pudding is in the 
eating. The working classes in Europe are some eight or 
nine-tenths of the population, but is it really true that 
nine-tenths of the ruling classes at any given moment, nine- 
tenths of the bankers and financiers, nine-tenths of the 
House of Lords, nine-tenths of the coal-barons, the wealthy 
industrialists and the owners of landed estates are the sons 
of farm labourers, dock workers, coal miners, and the like? 
Do eight or nine-tenths of the stately country houses of 
England belong to men who were born in workmen s 
cottages? There needs no answer to such questions. The 
handicap of birth, environment, early training, education 

1 02 

Hard and Soft 

in a word, the handicap of poverty, is far too great. The 
most talented, the most egotistic, the least scrupulous, may 
break through; but the boy of average ability stays where 
he was born. The very exceptional pit-boy becomes Prime 
Minister now and then, but so does the mediocre aristocrat 
and the moderately talented industrialist, men who, if they 
had been born pit-boys, would have hewed coal until 
they died. 

Well, is that any different in Russia? An hour or two 
later I asked Natalia what she thought about it, but only 
for form s sake. I knew by heart what she would say. 
"Of course 1" she said gladly, rather relieved, I think, to 
find the conversation turning to something she could be 
sure of. "How could it not be different? We have no 
aristocrats, no bourgeois. Our directors and managers are 
appointed from the ranks : they have all worked with their 
hands. Not the foreign technicians, of course. But those 
will go back to their own countries when the Plan is 
finished. They have all contracts for so many years, and 
while they are here they train those who will take their 
places. And everybody has the same chance for that." It 
was Augustus who replied. He was not satisfied. He sug 
gested that a higher-paid worker, or a technician, or a 
manager, could keep his son at school more easily than 
other workers, and so procure him advantages. "But of 
course not 1" cried Natalia. "All the schools are free. The 
books are free. The training is free. The universities are 
free. A boy cannot work before the fixed age. And then 
he must work. He can still go to school, technical schools, 
night schools, workers universities. But unless he works 
as well, he cannot go to these schools. How can one have 
more chances than another?" Augustus fired his last shot. 
"But if his father is a man of influence/ he said, "there 
may be favouritism, surely. Human nature is human nature, 


This Russian Business 

even in a Communist paradise." (Natalia stiffened a little, , 
as she always did when Augustus gave one of his pet 
phrases an airing.) "The people in the higher positions 
must be able to influence those below them, or even those 
on their own level. Suppose a People s Commissioner or 
a Party leader had a son at school. . . ." Natalia smiled. 
"They do sometimes," she said. "Stalin has a son. He did 
not get on very well at school. He is now apprenticed to 
an electrician in a little town in Georgia. But of course 
there might be favouritism, as you say. What would you 
have? Men are only human. If one sees it, one must protest. 
I do not think there is so much chance for favouritism as 
you think, though. It is rather difficult. Too many people 
would protest. But" and she smiled again "if you can 
think of any improvement, any arrangement which would 
make favouritism quite impossible, I am sure the Soviets 
would be glad to listen to you." Augustus subsided. 

Many a true word is spoken in jest, and that somewhat 
frivolous suggestion often seemed to me to be in good 
earnest the key of the whole matter. There was always 
that positive spirit in these people s way of thinking, though 
it was not always expressed in words. Perhaps you are 
right, they seemed to say, we may not have done what we 
thought we had done. Perhaps we have only travestied 
our ideal. Well, if that is really so, we will try again. Next 
time we shall succeed, or the next. One always felt that 
the inexorable will was there, the obstinate creative impulse. 
And that seems to be the very essence of the Bolshevik 
spirit, the Bolshevik method. It is perhaps no guarantee 
of eventual success. But it does seem to be more or less a 
guarantee for the removal of all the accidental causes of 
failure. One sees the same spirit even in their periodic 
washing of dirty linen in public, at Soviet congresses, party 
congresses, and the like. They are not afraid to acknowledge 


Hard and Soft 

their mistakes. They do not cover up weaknesses and 
carry on, hoping that something will happen. Self-criticism 
with them is a virtue, one of the prime virtues. And when 
the fault, the mistake, the wrong turning, the waste of 
strength, is once plain to their eyes, there is no hesitation, 
no disconcerted lassitude, no false shame, no leaving the 
thing alone because change would be a confession of failure. 
The losses are cut at once, the new resolution is promptly 
taken, the false steps are retraced, the new effort begins. 
They find in 1921 that "war communism 5 * has gone too 
far, and outgrown both their powers of control and their 
material resources. They scrap it. Lenin introduces the New 
Economic Policy amid the opposition or hesitation of half 
of his own party and the jeers of all the West. Much later, 
in 1929, the "unbroken working week" is introduced amid 
general applause and self-congratulation. But it turns out 
poorly; it will not answer. It is scrapped (except for a few 
industries) and the idea postponed. Something like equal 
pay is attempted the principle, "from each according to 
his powers, to each according to his needs." It does not 
answer the present purpose; it endangers the sacrosanct 
Plan. It is scrapped; the time is not yet, we will return to 
it by and by. Always there is this eager opportunism, 
this stark realism, this sacrificing of every subsidiary aim 
to the single ideal, the one most urgent task. One thing at 
least its most vitriolic critics can never deny to the Russian 
Revolution, and that is its indomitable will to live, its 
passion for sheer survival. It is not in the mood to die, 
it lays eager hands on the future; alone among human 
societies of our time, it is conscious of youth, and rejoices 
in the zest of living. It has memory too, and tenacious 
purpose, in spite of defeats and tackings and manoeuvres. 
Its opportunism is a temporary thing; it lays aside its 
cherished dreams to serve the moment s need, but that 


This Russian Business 

emergency once past, the work is taken up again where 
it was left off. The New Economic Policy was a halt, a 
strategic retreat, a temporary abandonment of positions. 
They looked on it so, they called it all those things, they 
used those metaphors. The Capitalist West said smiling: 
"They say so to save their faces, they cannot admit that 
Communism will never work, but it means that, and they 
know it; this is the beginning of the end; from now on 
they fail more and more; gradually, with some decent 
saving of face and adroit covering up of defeat, Russia 
will kiss the rod and enter the circle of Capitalist societies." 
The West was wrong. The retreat abruptly stopped. There 
was a rally, a new advance, the positions were recovered, 
a forward movement on a vast scale began, and began to 
triumph; it is called the Five Years Plan, It has had its ups 
and downs; the end is not yet; it is now the fifth year, and 
in some sense perhaps victory still hangs in the balance. 
Whether the thing can be done, whether it will endure 
when it is done is not yet clear. But what is clear even 
now is the tense will, the courage, the power to face facts, 
the dynamic, I had almost said the Titanic qualities of the 
reborn Russian people, and first and foremost of the chosen 
spirits, the much-wondered-at, much-hated Communist 
Party, that potent yeast which for now almost sixteen years 
leavens a hundred and sixty millions of men. 

But as to this matter of equality, the School Teacher 
says that we all seem to have forgotten the most important 
thing. "All these people," she said, "obviously feel equal, 
and treat each other as equals. Even the very waiters and 
stewards haven t the slightest trace of servility, and nobody 
ever tries to treat them condescendingly. It seems to me 
that you all talk far too much abstract theory about whether 
these or those arrangements ought to produce class feeling 
or a sense of class distinctions, or what Augustus calls a 

1 06 

Hard and Soft 

new snobbery." She says that, in fact, as far as she can see 
by using her eyes and ears, these things simply do not exist, 
so what is the use of trying to persuade Natalia that they 
logically ought to exist. There may be material inequalities, 
but those can be altered. The point is whether there is a 
spirit of equality, or not. 

Perhaps that really is the point. In Russia and amongst 
Russians it is impossible not to feel that the spirit of equality 
is really there, in spite of some apparent formal contra 
dictions. That is, within the Soviet system. It would be 
idle to consider in such a connection extraneous and 
diminishing elements such as private traders, Nepmen, 
kulaks, village moneylenders, or even foreign specialists. 
If the question is whether the new order now in process 
of construction has already created within itself social 
divisions analogous to the classes of the former regime, 
the fragments of the old regime, and any other foreign 
elements, must clearly be left out of account. And within 
the Soviet orbit it does seem clear that the psychological 
sense of class distinction is wanting, that social intercourse 
is free from any sort of snobbery, that there is everywhere 
in Russia, up to the present, a democratic spirit undreamed 
of anywhere else in the civilised world. And even on the 
ship and in trams and places of amusements, in all those 
places where the contradiction and the inconsistency seemed 
to be most glaring, it becomes evident on second thoughts 
that one s first impression was after all a rather superficial 
one. It is obvious that in all those places you can buy 
certain advantages or privileges, just as in any other country. 
But there is always a limit which does not exist in other 
countries; there are some things you cannot buy. And 
the things you cannot buy are of the same kind in all 
those places. You cannot buy the right to hold yourself 
aloof, to refuse to mix with the common herd, to consort 


This Russian Business 

only with those people who have bought the same privileges 
as yourself. If you travel first class on the ship, you buy 
a better cabin, but all the decks and all the sitting-rooms 
are as free to the third-class passengers as to you. In the 
train money will buy a more comfortable seat. But the 
waiting-room on the station is in common, and so is the 
refreshment room. There are no separate rooms for different 
classes of passengers, as in many countries of the West. 
At the theatre you pay more and sit in the stalls, or you 
pay less and sit perched in the gallery. But at the interval 
you all mix in the same foyer. And when one considers 
the nature of these differences, and the point at which the 
line is drawn in each case, one notices that, speaking by 
and large, it is the more private part of all these things 
which is sold at different prices according to quality, and 
that at the point where the clients mix with each other, 
and there comes the opportunity for social intercourse, 
the distinction ceases, the privilege is withdrawn. At that 
point all become equal, and money will no longer buy 
differential treatment. If your pockets are full of roubles, 
you can indulge yourself in all sorts of solid material 
comforts, but not in the subtler delights of social con 

Of course Augustus insists that the logical view is still 
the true one. So long as material privileges exist, he says, 
they will inevitably bring about psychological class dis 
tinctions, feelings of superiority and inferiority. This may 
be obscured for the moment by the general revolutionary 
atmosphere, just as to some extent class feeling in England 
was momentarily blunted during the war. But the time will 
come when the purchaser of privileges will condescend to 
ordinary people, and ordinary people will look up to them. 
Openly, that is; because, of course, that is how people 
must really feel even now, though they may still wear a 


Hard and Soft 

fashionable face of good fellowship till times become more 

But surely it is possible to exaggerate the psychological 
effect of all these material divisions. Even suppose one did 
have a society strictly and genuinely equalitarian, would 
there really be any logical reason why all cabins on 
ships and all seats in trains and all places at the picture 
show should be the same price? Surely Natalia is partly 
right when she says that we cannot all have the same 
thing. A berth or a seat is a commodity sold at a price 
according to quality; why must they all cost the same? 
Must every democrat pay the same price for his overcoat 
or his boots? Is Utopian justice outraged if I buy margarine 
instead of butter, so that I may have strawberry jam instead 
of treacle? If a Communist Government sells beer, is it false 
to its principles unless it sells a small glass for the same 
price as a pint? But when I asked Augustus that, he said 
eagerly that that was the principle of supplying each man 
according to his needs, and that it was exactly what Com 
munists would do. Well and good. But in that case it would 
seem that he should stop reproaching them for not doing 
it. We can t have it both ways. Not even the Bolsheviks 
(cunning though they be in all manner of evil) can be 
simultaneously absurd for doing something and inconsistent 
because they don t do it. 

None the less, I suppose if one man has more money 
than another there is inevitably some tendency for his 
greater purchasing power in terms of luxury and privilege 
to make him feel uppish, and for the lack of such things 
to make other people feel downish. But there is a question 
how far that may be counteracted by other tendencies. I 
should think it will always be difficult for Prime Ministers 
to be haughty or condescending towards bootblacks, so 
long as the bootblacks persist in calling them "Comrade." 


This TLussian Business 

Certainly it is not for nothing that in admittedly class- 
ridden societies the bootblack calls the minister "Sir," or 
"Excellency/ 3 or "Your Serene Translucency." So far 
Bolshevism does show a certain progress. Though perhaps 
the word "progress" begs the question. Augustus says it 
is retrogression. He approves of differences in rank and 
the outer distinctions that advertise them. He says that 
there is a social use both for actual subordination and for 
ceremonial outward contrasts, and that deep reasons of 
public policy justify the transparency of the minister and 
the relative opacity of the shoeblack. Still, this does not 
mean that equality is impossible, but only that it is all 
wrong. It seems to me too early to go into that, especially 
as our permission is not likely to be asked. These people 
are trying to make equality. It is at the very least an inter 
esting experiment. Let us therefore encourage them to 
make it, if it can be made, and after that we can more 
conveniently discuss the question of whether or not they 
have made it back to front. 

Sermons in Stones 

IT is PERHAPS in Moscow that the visitor to Russia, the 
occasional hasty visitor, realises most vividly that he is 
both in a foreign country and in a new era of history. 
The half-Oriental aspect of the city makes one aware of 
Russia far more than the European streets of Leningrad, 
for Russia is not so much a foreign country as a foreign 
continent. The Russians have always spoken of "Europe" 
(as the Greeks do) as of an alien continent, meaning only 
the circle of Western lands, and until this hour the expres 
sion was full of meaning. Henceforward it may be still 
more so, but in a far different sense. The remnants of the 
feudal order have vanished into limbo ; the mediaeval aspect, 
the Asiatic atmosphere are disappearing like smoke in the 
wind. Everything is being made modern, matter-of-fact, 
brand new, and not mainly on any European model. The 
material affinities of the new civilisation are rather to be 
found across the Atlantic, and it is no rash prophecy to 
say that in a few years* time the aspect of Russia will 
resemble America far more than the traditionalist West. 

In Moscow too these changes go forward apace; the 
future presses hard upon the past, and the present has a 
confused and somewhat chaotic appearance. But this is 
mainly in the outer parts of the city; within the circuit of 
the ancient walls the beginnings of that transformation are 
less evident, and the city still wears the selfsame aspect that 
the slow centuries have given it, an aspect that often 
suggests Byzantium and the mediaeval East far more than 
the capital of a modern state. 

And yet in Moscow there beats the very pulse of the 


This Russian Business 

proletarian Revolution; here, perhaps more than elsewhere, 
one is conscious of a new order and a different life. For 
here as elsewhere the revolutionary struggle has two aspects, 
the pursuit of riches and the pursuit of righteousness, the 
struggle to make backward Russia a wealthy modern state 
after the American model, and the struggle to make Russia 
into a Socialist State, something as different from America 
as could well be conceived. So there is, year by year, a 
change in the ideas and outlook of men, no less than in 
their occupations and their material works, and this change 
also is not without its outward signs and symptoms, 
accumulating ever since the overthrow of the Czars. These 
are the subtler elements in what one might call the revo 
lutionary landscape, the symbols, the visible traces of the 
thinking and the passion which filled up those fifteen eager 
and stormy years. 

The traditional centre of Moscow is the vast Red Square, 
lying under the high north-eastern wall of the Kremlin. 
It is more than a quarter of a mile from end to end. The 
imposing walls of the Italian-built mediaeval fortress, and 
the arcades and high regular fronts of the administrative 
buildings on the other side, form a striking contrast with 
the Russo-Byzantine riot of domes and spires in the two 
great cathedral-like buildings which close the square at 
either end a contrast that vaguely recalls the Venetian 
piazza of St. Mark, where from three sides the stately 
Renaissance fajades look somewhat severely across the 
quadrangle at that fantastic vision of Aladdin s palace 
which is the church of St. Mark. But in the Red Square 
only the southern of those two confections is really a 
cathedral; the other is the Historical Museum built in the 
nineteenth century (by an Englishman) to match it. There 
is perhaps a certain irony in the fact that the cathedral also 
has now become a museum. However, Moscow s need for 


Sermons in Stones 

cathedrals does not remain entirely unsatisfied, for there are 
sixteen more of them in various parts of the city. 

In the southern part of the square, towards the cathedral, 
is a round stone platform, which from ancient times has 
borne the name of the Place of Skulls. This was the place 
of execution, where from the time of Ivan the Terrible 
downwards political offenders were put to death, with the 
cowed populace watching from the lower level of the square, 
as it might be the pit of a theatre, while the Czar, if he had 
a mind, could view the last end of his enemies more con 
veniently from an upper window in the Kremlin. 

The space along the wall right under the Kremlin battle 
ments has become a kind of Pantheon of the revolutionary 
dead. Here are some five hundred graves of those who fell 
in the October revolution, and here also lie buried Sverdlov, 
the first President of the Soviet State, Vorovski, the ambas 
sador murdered at Lausanne, and a few others. 

High in front of all these memorials, directly under the 
Red Flag on the Kremlin dome, stands the red marble 
mausoleum of Lenin, where for these eight years his 
embalmed body has lain in state, exposed to the public 
veneration, in a crypt-like chamber below the monument. 
This spot is the very heart of Russia. It is an experience 
not easily to be forgotten, to come after dusk into the Red 
Square for the first time, and to see in front the high em 
battled walls of the Kremlin, flood-lit from the opposite 
side, with its turrets and central dome rising into the dark 
blue sky, and the gleaming scarlet of the Red Flag waving 
over all. And there below, dimly outlined in the shadow, 
is the mausoleum, with two Red Army soldiers at each gate, 
a perpetual guard of honour both by day and night. And 
stretching away southward all the length of the immense 
square is a deep column of men and women waiting their 
turn to enter the monument. There might be almost two 

113 H 

This Russian Business 

thousand of them, and every night the same slow procession 
is there, forming themselves up in regular files, moving 
gradually forward, and always strangely silent. When you 
come in your turn to the outer gates, and then to the doors 
of the tomb, the impression of that silence is deepened by 
the aspect of the guards standing immovably at attention. 
They are almost the only guards one ever does see definitely 
at attention, and these were of an absolutely marble stillness, 
as if they were part of the fixed stone of the mausoleum. 
With suddenly bared heads the mourners enter, and then 
one by one, still in dead silence, they file down the passages 
into the tomb, pass slowly round the bier, and out by 
another door. Here are more guards, stationed in a kind 
of pit round the glass coffin. And there is Lenin in his 
proper flesh, lying back with his head on a pillow and 
hands crossed on his military coat, very calm and lifelike, 
as if merely at last asleep after much weariness, and with 
an extraordinary illusion of latent vitality. It is a marvel of 
the embalmer s art. And that sense of latent life, of the 
indomitable immortality of this man s spirit, is the strongest 
impression one gains, not only here in the solemn presence 
of the dead, while those daily thousands file past in a kind 
of rapt silence, devout and almost religious, not only here, 
and not only upon the soil of Russia, but wherever and 
however one encounters the labouring spirit of the Revolu 
tion. LENIN (which was not even his name) is cut in capital 
letters on the monument, that, and nothing else. It has 
become by now a sacred and dynamic name, a word of 
strange power in Russian minds. One might almost imagine 
In hoc sigio vinces written under those five letters. There is 
surely hardly any other example of the imagination of a 
whole great nation being so preoccupied, so intoxicated 
with the memory of a single man; it is in a sense true, 
what their enemies say mockingly, that the Bolsheviks 


Sermons in Stones 

have deified Lenin such deification as is conceivable where 
the deifiers are persuaded that there is no such thing as 

There are those who will have it that this posthumous 
veneration of Lenin, especially this tomb, is a masterpiece 
of subtle propaganda. No doubt that is true in a sense. 
Monuments are always that more or less. Tombs are not 
set up simply to house the dead; a wooden box will do 
that ; there is always some thought of influencing the living 
and especially the generations to come. To call the effort to 
exercise such influence "propaganda" is new, the word is 
new, but the effort is always discernible wherever men 
thought the dead past worthy of commemoration for the 
sake of encouraging or instructing those who should inherit 
the times to come. Yet it is true that in our days this effort 
grows greater everywhere, and nowhere more than in 
Russia. Here propaganda is so constant and takes so many 
shapes, and in particular the mute propaganda of images 
and emblems, what one might call symbolic propaganda 
has been so effectively developed, that one instinctively 
reads propaganda into almost everything, and it may be 
that one sometimes suspects an intention to point a moral 
where in reality no such thing was meant. But perhaps it is 
not too rash to see some such intention in the deliberate 
juxtaposition of the emblems and monuments of the new 
order and the old in public places like the Red Square. For 
of the deliberateness there can be little doubt. Lenin s tomb, 
the tombs of all those others, might have been set up any 
where. There was no special appropriateness in the Red 
Square. That was not the theatre of their deeds, or the 
special scene of their triumph. And if nevertheless this 
seemed to the Communists to be the one spot of all others 
for the setting up of this sanctuary of their faith, it was 
surely precisely because this one spot was the centre of that 


This Russian Business 

tradition with which all these dead were at mortal strife; 
what struck their imaginations was the visible challenge, 
the glove thrown down, the lifting up in high places of the 
signs of conflict. For there towers the Kremlin, with the 
Red Flag flaming above it, and in the square itself, under 
the walls of the fortress of the Czars, in front of the fantastic 
ancient cathedral, the plain solid tomb of the Socialist 
leader, the visible focus and symbol of the pulsing life of 
new Russia, of all those forces which overthrew both 
Church and Czar and, across the square, that other high 
place, also a kind of focus in other times, where so often 
in the past the power and ferocity of the Czars used the 
last vain argument of despotism. It is hardly fanciful to see 
in this a wilful juxtaposition, a piece of tremendous rhetoric 
in the authentic revolutionary style there, the monument 
of the destroying fury of reaction, its last card, its final 
effort to beat down opposition: here, in the tomb of 
reaction s latest victim, the triumphant answer to that effort, 
the assertion of the immortality of all the slain, the proof of 
the irrepressible, indomitable life that springs for ever from 
that blood. 

There is a still more obvious propagandist purpose in the 
careful preservation and exhibition of the Czarist prisons. 
After the French had smashed the Bourbons they burnt down 
the Bastille. It was a satisfying gesture, it probably relieved 
their feelings, but in one sense it was a bad mistake. The art 
of revolution has made progress since then. The fortress of 
St. Peter and St. Paul in Petersburg is kept as a museum, 
and its dismal corridors, once carefully muted, now echo 
to the steps of a continuous procession of visitors who peer 
anxiously into the cells, examine the punishment chambers, 
and listen to detailed explanations of ingenious cruelties 
practised there, cunning and elaborate schemes to wear 
down rebellious wills, Machiavellian devices for the intimi- 


Sermons in Stones 

dation and enslavement of the human spirit. It surely has 
its effect all that; it sinks in and leaves its mark, in a way 
it could never do if there were not present to the eye the 
mute unalterable witness of that forbidding stone and 
mortar* The gloomy impregnable walls, the narrow cells, 
the pallet beds, the spy-holes, the gratings, the isolation 
chambers, all these impress on the mind, in a way no 
mere words could do, the enormous weight of that force 
which for long generations held all Russia cowed and 
helpless. There are dungeons enough extant in Europe 
which the curious may inspect and shiver at, and the 
Russian prisons were no worse than the rest ; the difference 
lies simply in the fact that the fortress of Peter and Paul 
is not, like the prisons of England or France or Germany, 
the crumbling theatre of far-off and half-forgotten mis 
doings ; the Czarist tyranny belongs to these very days in 
which we live ; the echoes of its infamy have not yet died 
away, at least for those who are old enough to remember 
what Europe was like before the war. As one listens to the 
patter of the interpreter, one is vividly conscious of this 
contemporaneity; one comes to this or that cell, and hears 
in matter of fact phrases that So-and-So lay here fourteen 
years, and that he is now living in Such-and-Such a street 
in Leningrad or Moscow. Of course many prisoners were 
there till the Revolution delivered them, and of these 
naturally a good part are still living; one can see that the 
Red Flag now floating above the fortress has for them and 
their relatives and acquaintances a special and poignant 
meaning. These have no need of propaganda to persuade 
them that the new is better than the old; as far as their 
influence extends they are themselves a living propaganda. 
And that influence must extend, directly or indirectly, 
much further than can be at all apparent to foreigners. 
Every man that ever knew or spoke with one of these 


This Russian Business 

ransomed captives, their friends friends, all those who 
knew them even by name or sight, and finally all those who 
experienced, even as mere matter of daily news or passing 
curiosity, the tumults or political movements for which 
they suffered to every one of those people (and between 
them they must include half Russia) the propagandist 
implications of these museum-prisons must come home with 
a particularly telling appeal. And then no doubt there may 
be moments of more immediatepoignancy ; it is still possible, 
it will be possible for many years to come, for the very 
inmates of former times to revisit the dreary scene or if 
not they, then their nearest friends or relatives. It is easy 
enough to learn from a cicerone or a guide-book of past 
woes and to think but little of it, but it is a different matter 
if a man stands at your elbow and says, "Here my father 
lay till he rotted," or, "From that room my brother was led 
out to die," or it may be even, "I, I that speak to you, 
passed into that stone cage when I was young, and came 
out with these grey hairs." 

But apart from these vivid personal contacts, every stone 
of that fortress is in itself, as it were, a page of Russian 
revolutionary history. When one knows its use, there is a 
certain poignant eloquence implicit in the very aspect of 
that triple oblong chamber crossed by two iron gratings, 
where (after many others) Lenin s mother, pale and des 
perate, saw her eldest son for the last time on the morning 
before he was hanged, and (as the ingenious rule was) they 
kept them each behind his own grating, two yards apart 
with the guards pacing between, and would not let the 
mother embrace her son, or even touch his hand. To this 
day they use a chamber like that in French convict prisons 
but not for those about to die. 

Count it all up, and it must come to a good deal, the 
moral effect of all these memorials of the former time ; it 


Sermons in Stones 

Is probably well worth the paltry expense of keeping up 
a few acres of useless stone, and well worth the effort of 
self-control involved in refraining from gratifying the 
natural human taste for destructive rhetorical gestures, for 
pulling down fortresses so that not one stone remains 
upon another, and for making bonfires of the more com 
bustible monuments of one s enemies. 

The sparing of Gzarist statues and monuments is perhaps 
a still more profitable piece of political wisdom. Museums 
are all very well, but people are not obliged to go to them, 
and the effect of preserving and labelling the instructive 
symbols of bygone misdeeds is a good deal wasted if a 
large proportion of the public persists In spending its half- 
holidays somewhere else* But a bronze tyrant on a charger 
in the middle of a city square is different. The political moral 
may be a shade less poignant, but at least the monument 
is bound to be seen ; you are sure that sooner or later, and 
probably many times in the course of a few years, every 
mortal soul in that city will look at it. Especially if you 
smother it in scarlet streamers on all festal occasions, as 
they do. 

In a certain sense the Russian propagandists are lucky in 
coming immediately after the Czars. The Bolsheviks are the 
protagonists of socialism, and the typical adversary of the 
Socialist idea is plutocracy, not absolute monarchy. Sub 
stantially and in principle, absolutism seems likely in the 
future, and in the world at large, to be a state of things 
quite irrelevant to that struggle, something like a freak 
candidate at a parliamentary election, whom everybody 
knows to be certain of losing his deposit. Yet in Russia 
there it is, or rather there it was, only yesterday, and 
upon its overthrow the present regime is built. Certainly 
a few months and a transitional regime intervened between 
the February and October revolutions, but the equilibrium 


This Russian Business 

of that compromise was shown even by the event to be 
unstable, and in any case the real tussle did not come till 
three years later, when the Red Army firmly based the 
Revolution upon the fair and square defeat of what in 
substance were plainly Gzarist forces. 

Now it is clear that an absolute tyranny is a far more 
terrifying alternative for propaganda to point to than any 
capitalist pseudo-democracy could ever be. When Socialists 
declaim against the horrors of Capitalism, the traditional 
answer is to make fun and to make believe, to pretend 
that there is really no such system as "Capitalism," that the 
term is a mere flourish, a piece of cant not far removed 
from nonsense, that we are obviously governed by demo 
cratic constitutions and ballot-boxes and such things, and 
that capitalists (if we smilingly concede the use of such a 
term) are no more powerful than carpenters. But you cannot 
dispose of emperors in that easy fashion. An avowed 
despot s government may be alleged by his supporters to 
be necessary, or benevolent, or divinely appointed, or 
otherwise admirable and desirable. But at least they can 
never deny that it is despotic. Autocracy, unlike the rule 
of capitalists and financiers, is obliged to come out into the 
open. Of course there have been a few instances to the 
contrary. Augustus Caesar pretended to be only a private 
citizen, and found it convenient as a rule to hide himself 
behind a popular constitution. But the vanity of modern 
potentates has rarely allowed them to exploit the advantages 
of dissembling their real power; they have usually been 
far more apt to make themselves a covert laughing-stock 
by flaunting pretentious titles, highnesses and majesties 
and mightinesses, which may be merely fatuous in powerless 
figureheads, so-called constitutional monarchs, but which in 
absolute rulers betray a boundless and dangerous insolence. 
The Augustan notion of monarchy was perhaps the man 


Sermons in Stones 

of iron; the mediaeval and modern notion has rather been 
the tin god. Tin gods may be ridiculous, but they are none 
the less dangerous for that. Nero was both in the highest 
degree, if history tells the truth; the strain of insanity so 
often inherent in the psychology of monarchs easily assumes 
monstrous proportions when absolute power finds its 
absolutism questioned or opposed. The Russian autocracy 
was a typical case in point. It was never more monstrous or 
more hated than in the fifteen years before its catastrophe* 
After discrediting its prudence and its power in one of the 
most shameful military failures in history, it encountered 
and suppressed the revolt of 1905, and its last significant 
act before the war in which it destroyed itself was the fearful 
repression of that rebellion, for the velleities of repentance, 
fiddling about with Dumas, setting up of sham constitu 
tions, and such like feeble and spasmodic fooleries of the 
last years are hardly worth counting. 

If they had been given half a century s grace, the Czars 
might in a certain sense have lived down those panic 
cruelties, but in less than ten years the beginning of the 
catastrophe was upon them. And naturally those three 
years of war did not help matters; a tyranny found unen 
durable even in time of peace is not likely to retrieve its 
reputation by dint of the slaughter of a couple of millions 
of men. The autocracy therefore ended on a note of ruthless 
reaction, of fury and massacre; when it finally met the 
Revolution its arms were still, in a none too figurative sense, 
dripping with blood. 

In this there surely lies no small element of the successful 
appeal of Bolshevik propaganda. This, they can say, this is 
the historical alternative to the present regime. It is not even 
a question of Bolshevism or Western Capitalism. The gloved 
fist and the gilded chains are not in the fortunes of Russia/ 
is no middle way; whoever has the courage, let tiMn 

This Russian Business 

choose. If you go out into the squares and pull down the 
Soviet power, there above you is the C2ar on horseback, 
and to-morrow the Cossacks will ride you down. You may 
tear off the Red Fkg from the Kremlin dome, and then the 
stones of Lenin s sanctuary will be taken away from the 
Red Square ; but not the stones of that fatal platform on the 
other side. 

It is a terribly telling piece of rhetoric thus written in 
symbolic stone where all who pass may read, even the 
illiterate countryman stooping under his bundles who comes 
to Moscow at dusk and passes by the Kremlin walls on his 
way to the Peasants House. But is it true? If Stalin is 
tumbled down to-morrow, will some maniac Romanoff or 
the like really take his pkce? In Europe such a prediction 
would be an obvious non sequitur; there is by now too 
strong a tradition of mixed Governments, and the minds of 
whole populations have for generations been accustomed 
to political compromise. But here there is no such back 
ground; any midway course can draw no strength or 
sanction from the past ; here legitimacy is the monopoly of 
absolutism. Joseph Conrad puts into the mouth of one of 
his Russian heroines a deeply significant saying: "The 
Western peoples have made their bargain with Fate; we 
need not envy them." Since then it has been put to the 
proof. Kerensky and his friends did envy the Western 
compromise, the comfortable half-way house; but Russia 
brushed them aside. This is the soil for extremes. There 
never was a bourgeoisie to speak of, nor any steadying 
middle interest; and a middle-class Government without a 
middle class, or with only a feeble middle ckss, is as artificial 
as a house of cards. If the present r6gime goes down, the 
pendulum of power will surely make that tremendous back 
ward swing. There might be constitutions and Kerenskys 
fot a few moments by the way, but it is hardly doubtful 
that all the weight of history would pass across them to the 


Sermons in Stones 

comparative equilibrium of an absolute government. A 
government of tense will on one side or the other,- that, or 
utter disintegration. There is no other fortune for Russia 
as Russia is now. She cannot bargain with Fate to-day any 
more than yesterday. To-morrow yes, perhaps. Give the 
Bolsheviks fifty years, give them even twenty years more, 
let them industrialise and electrify the land, let them create 
not only a great proletariat, but also a great intelligentsia of 
their own, an aristocracy of skilled workers, managers, 
directors, technicians, professionals, and so on, strong 
enough to betray them, and to take advantage of the betrayal, 
and then let them fail! Then Kerenskyism and Western 
pluto-democracy may win. But not as things are now. 

It is an illusion to which we are easily subject, to think 
of the continuance of the Communist power as being 
necessarily linked with its success or failure in the economic 
field or as a political experiment. No doubt the odds are 
so, that it will live if it succeeds, and die if it fails. But the 
odds are not overwhelming. The Bolshevik regime, like 
every other regime on earth, rests partly on force, and 
force may wreck it, especially if Europe or Japan makes 
secret or open war. That was tried once, and it failed, 
but it is not written in the stars that it will always fail. 
A rebellion of the discontented, backed by foreign money 
and furnished with foreign equipment, has always a reason 
able chance in a period of transition. It is far too easy an 
assumption that ail the dead civilisations died because they 
were ripe for death. As often as not they were simply 
murdered ; they vanished from the world because of military 
failure, and nothing else. The Greece that Rome subdued 
was a finer thing than Rome, as the Romans themselves 
came to understand, and Rome herself was a better home for 
the human spirit than the kingdoms of the Vandals and the 
Goths. The A2tecs did not go down because their civilisa 
tion was a failure, but because they had no gunpowder. 


This Russian Business 

And the nation that rides upon the necks of Europe in 
the next war will be a set of degenerate maniacs who win 
because of their ingenuity in inventing, and their unscrupu 
lous wickedness in putting into practice, some device or 
other for suffocating millions of human beings at a single 
stroke. So also the Bolsheviks, like everybody else, stand 
a very fair chance of being wiped out by a military (or 
chemical) catastrophe, even though their politico-economic 
experiment may show every sign of success. But one thing 
seems fairly clear. If Bolshevism dies, it has no heirs; the 
Revolution is left childless, and the succession must almost 
certainly revert to despotic rulers. 

Yet perhaps if Bolshevism survives those violent chances 
for fifteen or twenty years, the odds are that it may win 
through altogether, in spite of the obvious peril to the 
Communist system from the directing hierarchy and the 
new intelligentsia. If the Communists successfully industrial 
ise the country, if they make any sort of success of this 
tremendous business concern of "Russia Unlimited"- if 
they can give the people bread, even bread and jam, and 
with it peace, their prestige will be so enormous that it will 
be a most difficult matter to shake them. Once the great 
masses of the people have security and material welfare, 
triey will not so easily suffer to be sacrificed the only system 
which has ever given them those things, and even if in 
those days they understand liberty otherwise than their 
rulers do, they are likely enough to seek the victory of 
their own conceptions from changes within the system, 
and not through attempts to destroy the system itself. 
But of course that also settles nothing, even if it turns out 
so. For although the consent of the governed, even the 
support of the governed, is a tremendous asset in the 
hands of any regime, it does not guarantee the rdgime 
against overthrow. Force and chance have still the kst word. 



The Changing Landscape 

RED FLAGS on imperial fortresses. Communist Pantheons 
cheek by jowl with the secular monuments of despotism, 
May-day celebrations in palace squares, scarlet streamers 
on the statues of the Gzars, museums in cathedrals, and a 
hundred other incongruous couplings of the same kind, 
it is perhaps in these violent and studied contrasts that the 
Revolution discloses itself most vividly to the outward 
eye. These are more or less deliberate juxtapositions, full 
of an intentional suggestiveness, possessing a kind of ritual 
significance. Of course there is express ritual too, and plenty 
of it, celebrations, processions, festivals commemorating 
revolutionary events, even a Festival of the Revolutionary- 
Dead. Sometimes the form of their ritual curiously recalls 
our own. The Russians do not hold their breath for two 
minutes on Armistice Day, but on January 25th all traffic 
in the streets stops dead for five minutes. It is the anniversary 
of Lenin s death. 

But not all the marks of change are voluntary acts 
expressly designed to take the attention. Some of the most 
striking are by-effects of the central revolutionary change, 
often of a subtler kind, and not obvious to a stranger s eye 
until they are pointed out, but then most obvious. It is 
commonly said, for instance, that the Revolution has 
destroyed or is destroying the picturesque; and the more 
one reflects on this saying the more evident it becomes that 
it is true, at least in certain senses. Picturesqueness is a 
quality singularly difficult to analyse, at least when it is 
applied to anything but natural scenery. To call a thing 
picturesque generally means that you are looking at it very 


This Russian Business 

much from the outside, that you are indifferent whether 
it fulfils its own nature or satisfies its own purposes, or 
not. A fine building or a beautiful woman are things very 
different from a picturesque building or a picturesque- 
looking female. A building may be ruinous, and all the 
more picturesque for that, and the woman who strikes 
one as a picturesque creature may have neither happiness 
nor dignity in her face. In fact, there are surely some cases 
where a certain decadence positively helps the picturesque 
effect. It would be a curious speculation to consider how 
many "picturesque" scenes there are which depend for at 
least part of their effect on class differences, on ignoble 
passions, greed, lust, even on human misery. The picturesque 
cities are the cities with cramped buildings and narrow 
streets. Slavery is picturesque, and so is the contrast of the 
silk hat and the workman s blouse; is not the courtesan 
sometimes picturesque in the highest degree? Consider the 
overkboured Italian peasant the most picturesque, the 
most tragic of mortals. Peasants everywhere are so, from 
English Hodge to the Russian moujik, and always one 
ingredient of their picturesqueness has been their poverty; 
they are picturesque because they are hard-bestead, and not 
in spite of it. As soon as you take the load off a man s 
back, he fatally becomes less interesting to painters and 
tourists; there is no dilettantism of human happiness. No 
gathering is more picturesque than a market, almost any 
market; but how comes that to be so? Does it not arise 
in the last resort from the pressure of need on all those 
traffickers, the conflict of a hundred covetous wills, the 
babel of many tongues, the anxious chaffering for half 
pennies, amusing to the idle passer-by, but often a matter 
of deadly earnest to those concerned. And even apart from 
the quality of the human energy which thus expresses 
itself, it$ Yry multifariousness helps to make the picturesque 


The Changing Landscape 

atmosphere ; it is the jingle and the disorder, the hurly-burly 
and the to and fro of all this ebb and flow of human effort; 
it is picturesque partly because it is without a plan. 

It is probably true that to the idler and the aesthete, the 
globe-trotter and the mere sensuous spectator (and all those 
qualities are in all of us more or less), a certain kind of 
interest is dying out of Russian life and landscape. The 
picturesque and the characteristic, the exotic touch, the 
splash of local colour, the Oriental tinge, the mediaeval 
atmosphere, all that is surely and not slowly passing away, 
and most of the change is directly traceable to the Revolu 
tion. The process is there before one s eyes; the land 
visibly changes under the sunlight, even as one s glance 
falls on it for the first time. The hovel and the narrow street 
give way to the skyscraper with a thousand windows. The 
country costumes become out of date. The small traders 
are forced out of business; the fairs and markets shrink, the 
noise of chaffering dies down in the streets. Quaint little 
shops and stalls on the pavement give way ta department 
stores and co-operative warehouses. The lines of traders 
booths under the Chinese Wall in Moscow grow shorter 
year by year; they tell you there were formerly so and so 
many; and you cannot find the half. The trams are stuffed 
and packed, but the izvoschik with his ancient nag and 
crazy carriage are like a dwindling and half-forgotten 
survival from a different world. The palaces have ceased 
to look palatial, as palaces will when you turn them into 
museums. The churches have still some tinge of Byzantine 
splendour, but the coloured and gilded domes seem to have 
lost a good deal of their original brightness, and even the 
interiors often show signs of neglect and decay. Evidently 
that stream of money which kept them showy and splendid 
tends to dry up in these days of mere voluntary contribu 
tions, for .the Socialist State spends no money on churches, 


This Russian Business 

except where it has here and there taken them over as 
museums or the like, and thus saved them from the general 
dilapidation. The Byzantine quaintness still hovers about 
them, the mixture and exaggeration of styles has still its 
peculiar appeal, and the characteristic Russian dome still 
looks like a squashed onion, gilding or no gilding. But the 
endless repetition, the poverty of constructive imagination, 
the profusion of meaningless architectural detail, and the 
wallowing m extraneous ornament what one might call 
the toy-shop motif, the almost comic jumbling of disparate 
elements which reminds one so forcibly at times of a curio 
bazaar all that atmosphere of tawdriness and questionable 
taste, which was hidden and dissembled under the wealth 
and splendour of former days, seems to become keenly 
accentuated when poverty begins to give the whole collec 
tion a kind of threadbare look. 

But where the church decays, the factory springs into 
life ; and factory architecture may be impressive, convenient, 
hygienic, even beautiful, but it is never specifically pictur 
esque. And factories grow apace; even now the factory is 
not only the actual basis of the new Russia; it is also one 
important element in the visible physiognomy of its cities. 

Nor is it only the cities where picturesqueness seems to 
be dying; the country, so far as man and his works are an 
element in the landscape, is changing too. You can still see 
here and there a hand-plough, and peasant women dragging 
it while the peasant walks behind, and here and there are 
little plots and criss-crosses of farmland, ditches and hedges 
and corners, all lying higgledy-piggledy as if someone had 
forgotten to clear it away. But the collective farms are 
changing all that, a tremendous change, probably unex 
ampled in history, a vast agrarian revolution pushed 
through in a couple of years by sheer obstinate will power. 
The miserable little allotments are thrown into the general 


The Changing Landscape 

communal hotchpotch, the hedges and ditches and patch 
work fields are melted together as if by magic. Machinery 
rules this new world. The hand-plough and the flail vanish 
into the limbo of half-forgotten things. Even the horse 
tends to disappear. The tractor is master of the field. And 
what a field ! Where the small peasant farmed his five or 
six or ten acres, the collective farm which he helps to work, 
and out of the profits of which he lives his more spacious 
life, runs into thousands, hundreds of thousands, even 
millions of acres a scale hardly known hitherto even in 

So all over Russia the picturesque gives place to the 
convenient, and tradition and mediaevalism are buried under 
the shavings and shot-rubbish of the building of the modern 
world. In this there is surely neither anything strange in 
itself, nor yet anything which marks out that process as a 
characteristic result of revolutionary doctrines. In all this 
the history of contemporary Russia is the history of all 
the countries of the earth. All the nations go that self 
same road, and if America goes first, it would be hard to 
name a state, however obscure or backward, which does 
not somewhere or other fall raggedly into line* Certainly 
in Russia there is one thing strikingly different, namely, the 
tempo, the rate at which the change takes place; there is 
the prevailing sense of an immense urgency, the continual 
consciousness of a race against competing forces, the 
revolutionary energy which deliberately organises and 
quickens the march of a progress perhaps at some time 
inevitable, which lays violent hands on the sluggish future 
and compresses the industrial history of whole generations 
into a matter of months. 



Russia and the Church 

IT is QUITE obvious that, in a general way, the Christian 
clergy and the Socialists do not like each other very much. 
It is hard to say who started it. Of course the Church now 
complains that the Russian Government persecutes the 
clergy, and no doubt the complaint is more or less justified, 
although one cannot help feeling that the clergy in these 
days are sometimes a shade too ready to cry out on persecu 
tion the moment the ecclesiastical body ceases to be the 
spoilt child of the State. But the quarrel is much older than 
the Russian Revolution. It is now a good forty years, for 
instance, since Pope Leo the Thirteenth rather rashly went 
out of his way to publish that famous encyclical in which he 
laid it down as a matter of obligatory doctrine that Socialism 
was immoral, and ought to be suppressed. And if he took 
no active steps to suppress it or persecute it, it seems fair 
to suppose that that was only because the Temporal Power 
had long since followed the Inquisition into an irrecoverable 
past. Not quite irrecoverable, of course, because in these 
days there is the Vatican City; but that territory is hardly 
large enough to offer much scope for persecution, especially 
as the Italian State has for some years been itself addicted 
to Communist-hunting, and probably by this time the 
quarry has grown rather scarce and shy, at least in the imme 
diate neighbourhood of Rome, Still, it is pretty safe to say 
that if you want a licence to sell tobacco or peddle curios 
within the limits of the miniature Papal dominion, you had 
better keep your Socialist principles dark, if you have any. 
And that is about as far as any reasonable person could 
expect Papal persecution to go, under all the circumstances. 


Russia and the Church 

You can t have auto-da-fes, at this time of day. And even 
if you could, a politic pontiff might well hesitate to choose 
this particular heresy for an example. 

For sound though Leo s pronouncements might no doubt 
be from a purely doctrinal point of view (being indeed 
guaranteed from error by the well-known infallibility of the 
Popes), there can be little doubt that politically the great 
encyclical was a bad mistake. The Pope quite evidently 
believed that Socialism was at, or had passed, its zenith, and 
that a resolute push would be enough to give the decisive 
topple to a doctrine which, besides being contrary to the 
Divine will and to revealed religion, was in the long run 
likely to be politically dangerous to the power, the prestige, 
and even the possessions of the Catholic hierarchy. But this 
opinion turned out to be ill-founded. The pestilent doctrine 
continued to flourish, in fact it grew so far and so fast that 
orthodoxy must often have wished that it had never been 
irrevocably declared to be pestilent, since the embarrassed 
clergy found themselves in the position that the obligatory 
defence of the indiscreet encyclical tended to weaken their 
already precarious hold on the more radical portion of their 
congregations. Agile commentators and apologists did what 
they could to soften the blow, to explain away the encyclical, 
or rather to pare down the angular, uncompromising docu 
ment into some manageable shape, but the results were not 
very satisfactory. The fact remains that the Church had 
openly taken sides on a political question, had allied itself 
in the most definite manner with one party against the other. 
It had taken that risk before, and suffered no great hurt, but 
this time it seemed to have picked the wrong horse. 

Of course only the Roman sect was formally compromised 
by the encyclical, but for one thing that communion in 
cluded a good half of all Christendom, and then the encyclical 
did not stand alone. Every one of the ecclesiastical organisa- 

This Russian Business 

tions had committed itself more or less, though not always 
officially or publicly. It was sufficiently obvious that the 
clergy of all denominations everywhere were strongly anti- 
Socialist, an antagonism always very thinly veiled, and often 
not veiled at all. There were occasional exceptions. Socialist 
curates, radical vicars, bishops who flirted with liberal 
opinions. But these were few, and whether justly or unjustly, 
their good faith was generally doubted by both parties. 

On the other side of the fence there was perhaps an equal 
hostility on the whole, but it was of a more confused and 
heterogeneous nature. This difference was partly due to the 
varying degrees in which working-class movements in 
different countries, and even their sects and branches in 
the same country, were tinged with Socialist doctrine, but 
I think partly also to a certain hesitation and variance even 
amongst the leaders upon the question whether it were 
more politic to be anti-Church out-and-out, or to be for 
the present merely anti-clerical, carefully separating the 
irrelevant question of religious faith from the burning issue 
of clerical antagonism, and disclaiming any deske to meddle 
with religious matters, if only the ministers of religion 
could be persuaded to mind their own affairs. 

This hesitation was natural, if only because there were 
certain passages in Christian history which seemed (not 
indeed to Marxian theorists, but to more opportunist and 
for that time more practical leaders) to be well worth 
exploiting for propaganda purposes. For in spite of every 
attempt on the part of the comfortable orthodox to explain 
it away, the telling, the damning fact remained that the 
Christian Church itself was originally a Communist organisa 
tion. And then there were minor tit-bits for propaganda. 
There was the fact that Christians were recommended to 
sell all that they had and give the proceeds to the poor, 
a drastic but picturesque course of action to which they 


Russia and the Church 

were supposed to be moved by the reflection that camels 
could as easily pass through the eye of a needle as rich men 
into the Kingdom of Heaven. The extreme embarrassment 
of the clergy when trying to bowdlerise all this tactless 
doctrine of primitive times sufficiently to conciliate the 
favour of the rich upon whose largesse the Church had 
come to depend, was a tremendous asset to the Socialist 
anti-clerical of the nineteenth century, and to many of these 
propagandists it seemed a thousand pities to expressly 
deny or directly attack the authenticity of the authority of 
a doctrine which caused such intense discomfort to the 
complacent modern cleric. They rather enjoyed saying, in 
effect: yes, your religion is a very good thing; we agree 
that every word of it is- true; but why not carry it out, 
just for a change? When are you going to begin this 
business of selling your goods in order to clothe the poor? 
But of course the authentic Marxists, those rigid con 
scientious men, despised all these pettifogging tactics. They 
made no concessions to human weakness, and burnt no 
incense before traditions which they did not believe in. 
They found themselves attacked by the clergy ; they attacked 
the clergy in turn, and no considerations of opportunism 
or popularity withheld them from expending a portion 
of their aggressive zeal on the religious principle itself, 
utterly irrelevant though that was to the matter at issue. 
They were obliged to be anti-clerical; they often afforded 
themselves the luxury of being atheists. 

In Russia itself these things were still mute and implicit; 
where the established Church is a mere department of 
the general government, there is no great scope for change 
or variety either in the attitude of the religious department 
towards revolutionary movements, or in the attitude of 
revolutionaries towards the official clergy. The bureaucracy 
and the hierarchy are too intimately fused together for any 


This Russian Business 

pretence of impartiality by the clergy as between the 
established order and its enemies. And on the other hand, 
revolutionary movements which are compelled to struggle 
for very life with open tyrannous force have naturally less 
attention to bestow on the question of their attitude towards 
the psychology of humbug. For "humbug" is of course the 
word that precisely sums up their implicit emotional bias in 
these matters. 

So matters stood, more or less, when the Revolution 
turned the whole world upside down. In a sixth part of 
the world Socialism not only became the established order, 
but showed a distressing capacity for maintaining itself 
indefinitely in that situation. This of course was exactly 
the state of things the chances of which Leo the Thirteenth 
in particular, and the Christian clergy in general, had too 
rashly discounted. Plainly it would have been wiser to hedge. 
As it was, they were caught napping. For the Churches in 
Russia, and especially the Orthodox Church, the dilemma 
was acute. Privileges, property, revenues, everything 
vanished overnight. There remained of course, even in 
adversity and disfavour, the guiding principle of rendering 
unto Caesar the things which are Caesar s, of knuckling 
under to the established authority, and bartering submission 
for tolerance. That of course would have been politic, 
though distasteful. But for many centuries the clergy, after 
due obeisance to Caesar, has been krgely and steadily 
rewarded by Caesar s bounty. Now from the very beginning 
it was quite clear that this new Caesar was not bountiful. 
It is not surprising if the hierarchies persuaded themselves 
that power so definitely divorced from krgesse could 
hardly be a power of the sacred kind, to which our temporal 
obedience is commanded; and doubts of that kind lead 
almost inevitably to political intrigues. The trials of 
metropolitans and archbishops for treason, and all the 


Russia and the Church 

agitation and excitement which accompanied those events, 
led naturally to sympathetic action by the clergy of the 
West; there was a furious outburst of anti-Bolshevik 
propaganda which probably relieved the feelings of the 
European clergy very considerably, but which seems to 
have rather increased the embarrassments of their Russian 
colleagues. At kst some sort of modus Vivendi was patched 
up, and at any rate a krge portion of the Orthodox clergy 
passed under the yoke and become reconciled, at least 
outwardly, to the existing regime. But it is obvious that 
neither party has forgiven the other. And of this the 
Communist anti-religious propaganda is one of the most 
obvious signs. 

It is only against that historical background, in fact, that 
the Bolshevik anti-religious campaign becomes intelligible. 
If things could be taken at all at their face value, there would 
be something inexpressibly comical about a hard-pressed, 
hard-worked, matter-of-fact revolutionary administration 
wasting time, money, and energy on the propagation of 
its own academic views as to the existence or non-existence 
of God, or the degree of historical value which ought to 
be attributed to the Acts of the Apostles or the lives of 
the Saints. And if it were true that the Bolshevik Govern 
ment went on from that harmless though somewhat 
frivolous employment to harass and persecute, to exile and 
imprison, even in odd cases to shoot their ecclesiastical 
antagonists simply out of pedantic resentment at their 
continuing to hold different views about these abstruse 
philosophic or antiquarian questions- if that were true, 
we should obviously pass out of the regions of farce into 
those of sheer doddering insanity. But of course it is not 
true. The contest is a contest for power, not a dispute 
between erudite savants about philosophic dogmas or 
historical opinions. It is the old struggle between king and 

This Russian Business 

priest; it is the secular power against theocracy. The prize 
at stake is not the advancement of abstract opinions, it is 
the winning and holding of authority, the control of 
political allegiance, the power to command the support and 
obedience of the common people. 

And yet there is one enormous difference which marks 
out this, the most modern form of that age-long struggle, 
from all the shapes it took in former times. The new and 
strange thing, from a historical point of view, is this very 
anti-religious propaganda of which we hear so much. 
When the Roman Empire persecuted Christianity, it did 
not indulge in anti-Christian propaganda, nor was that 
method made use of in any real sense by the persecuting 
Governments of the Middle Ages, or by the Protestant and 
Catholic Governments since the Reformation. All these 
Governments haughtily commanded their subjects to 
believe thus and thus, or not to believe (or at any rate 
profess) other less acceptable doctrines. They did not as a 
rule attempt to persuade them. Persuasion would in fact 
have been considered beneath the dignity of the ruling 
powers, since it obviously implies an admission of liberty 
to disobey. In fact, it is quite clear in principle that persecu 
tion and propaganda are in their nature incongruous; 
whatever field is effectively occupied by the one, the other 
must of necessity be excluded from it for the time being. 
You may of course threaten a man and argue with him at 
the same time, but if you do, you stultify both those 
efforts ; for it is obvious that you yourself have only a very 
limited confidence in the efficacy of either of them. 

A middle course is logically possible, since the people 
who hold the opinions the Government dislikes are divided 
into two classes, the shepherds and the sheep. You may, 
that is, persecute the priest, while you proselytise his flock. 
In a certain sense no doubt this is what has actually 

Russia and the Church 

happened in Russia. It is obvious enough that no pressure 
of any compulsory kind is put upon the people to alter (or 
rather abandon) their religious opinions, but they are 
besieged and surrounded by every kind of propagandist 
appeal, positive and negative, direct and indirect. The 
priestly class, on the other hand, whose conversion can 
scarcely be hoped for, are at least negatively persecuted, 
in that their State stipends are wholly withdrawn, and it is 
obvious that so far as the propaganda is at all successful 
thek receipts from voluntary contributions are also likely 
to become scanty and precarious. It may be true that 
nothing prevents a pope from working for his living and 
preaching in his spare time, but in spite of Tolstoi such 
evangelical counsels have never yet made any very general 
appeal to the members of the priestly order, or of any other 
order. To refuse to pay a man a salary for doing something 
which you do not want him to do may hardly seem to 
deserve the name of persecution, but it is obvious that 
under given conditions it may produce some of the same 
results. And there seems in fact to be very little doubt 
that a considerable number of parish priests have become 
sufficiently discouraged by the prospect or experience of 
poverty to give up the unprofitable contest, and either to 
turn wholly to some other means of making a living, or 
even to leave the country. 

The governmental (or party) propaganda is in some 
respects a very curious and interesting phenomenon. It is 
commonly referred to, both in Russia and abroad, as an 
anti-religious propaganda; there are anti-religious museums, 
anti-religious posters, anti-religious films, wireless broad 
casts, lectures, pamphlets, even school-books. But on 
closer examination the term "anti-religious" turns out to 
be a rather clumsy and even an ambiguous description. 
For in the stream of propaganda two different tendencies 


This Russian Business 

are clearly to be distinguished. One of them makes a direct 
or indirect attack on supernatural doctrine, and this is 
obviously aptly enough described as anti-religious. The 
other ignores the doctrinal question mainly or altogether, 
but makes a direct and generally an extremely vigorous 
attack on the morals, the disinterestedness, or in plainer 
words the honesty, of the priestly class. And this tendency 
would perhaps be better called anti-clerical, in the interests 
of clear thinking. Now it is the anti-clerical propaganda 
which enormously predominates, and this is of course 
exactly what might have been expected, having regard to 
the origins and nature of the struggle. In fact, it is hardly 
too much to say that the specifically anti-religious propa 
ganda is on the whole purely incidental and auxiliary to 
the attack on the vested power of the clergy, and that the 
criticism of dogma, so far as it exists, is little more than a 
stick with which to beat the dogmatists. And here again 
is made manifest the fundamental difference between this 
and most previous historical controversies on a krge scale 
(at least since Roman times) between the State and religious 
bodies. When a Catholic Government persecuted Protestants, 
or an Anglican Government Nonconformists, the ministers 
of the persecuted sect were always treated with especial 
rigour. But in those cases the Government attempted to 
destroy the influence of priests for the ulterior purpose of 
detaching the congregations from certain beliefs, or attach 
ing them to others ; whereas in modern Russia the Govern 
ment attempts to weaken the belief of the population in 
certain doctrines (where it does so at all) for the ulterior 
purpose of destroying the influence of the clergy. There are 
fairly krge reservations to be made on both sides of the 
comparison, but substantially the distinction is there. 

There is in Russia a good deal of very vigorous propa 
ganda expressly directed to show that the clergy of various 


JLussia and the Church 

sects and religions (for Christianity has no monopoly of 
the attack- one has to remember that krge populations in 
Russia are Mohammedan, Buddhist, and what not) are 
merely corrupt self-seekers, leading idle and luxurious lives 
at the expense of the deluded workers. One very typical 
cinematograph film shows Russian Orthodox clergy and 
monks engaged for five reels in the elaborate management 
of bogus miracles, and afterwards gloating in secret over 
the plentiful contributions of money obtained as a result 
of the devotional fervour induced thereby in the faithful 
flocks. Nor is the general atmosphere of the so-called anti- 
religious museums of a very different kind. One of the most 
characteristic motifs in the strange jumble of exhibits in 
the museum in Leningrad which used to be St. Isaac s 
Cathedral (a motif often recurring in other museums) 
consists of jibes at the fat revenues of the Pope and the 
huge sakries of various bishops of the Church of England, 
the state and splendour of these dignitaries being pointedly 
contrasted with the poverty both of the Founder and of the 
flocks whom (it is suggested) they hypocritically affect to 
serve. Other sects and religions are not neglected, neither 
the living nor the dead, for the museum has a historical 
section. Neither Iskm nor ancient Egypt escapes criticism, 
nor the Delphic oracle, nor the Sibyls, nor the medicine 
men of the Congo. But the sakries of the English bishops 
might almost be said to be the piece de resistance. That, 
with the Papal revenues and the miracle-mongering at 
Russkn shrines, were evidently thought to be the most 
impressive scandals of that order which were conveniently 
avaikble for propaganda purposes. 

In one form or another the whole propaganda is per 
meated by this accusation of trading in holy things, of bad 
faith and dishonesty on the part of the clergy; it is 
continuously and mercilessly insisted that priests all over 


This Kussian Business 

the world are kept by the rich at the expense of the poor, 
that they are the servants of the rich, that they always take 
the side of the rich against the poor, and thajt they consis 
tently use imposture and mystification for the purpose of 
keeping the masses ignorant and subservient to the interests 
of the propertied classes, to which classes they, the clerics, 
belong, or of which they are the hangers-on. That sort of 
thing fills all the foreground of the propaganda. 

Now that is obviously not quite what is suggested by 
the term "anti-religious propaganda." It is anti-Church 
propaganda, anti-clerical propaganda ; it consists predomi 
nantly of the personal attack and the argtmtntum ad bominetn. 
And one cannot help suspecting that this accounts for a 
certain amount of the furious anger which the propaganda 
arouses in clerical circles in Western Europe. It is partly 
a matter of esprit de corps, of caste solidarity. It is only 
human for clerics to be even more annoyed at attacks on 
their own good faith than at attacks on the validity of thek 
teachings. If you corner your solicitor at the club and try 
to prove to him that the law of England is all wrong, he 
will most likely bear with you tolerably well. But if instead 
of doing that you argue that all solicitors are scoundrels, 
the chances are that his replies may have a more acrid 
flavour. And although clergymen may upon the whole be 
meeker men than lawyers, it seems probable that there are 
times when even they are not exempt from motives of 
personal resentment. 

The purely anti-religious propaganda, such as it is, seems 
to be addressed more to the younger generations, a 
tendency which of course it shares with the religious propa 
ganda in other countries. It begins at a very early age. I have 
before me a spelling-book with pictures intended for village 
children between the ages of five and eight. All through its 
sixty-odd pages the study of the arts of reading and writing 


Russia and the Church 

is combined with the inculcation of edifying matter of one 
sort or another, exhortations to help mother, to wash 
oneself properly, to chew one s food carefully, to collect 
old cornsacks to help with the harvest, and so on. Then 
there are little homilies on collective farms, the virtues of 
co-operation, the village festivals, the dignity of labour; 
and little conversational bits about natural history, picture 
shows, telling the time, the seasons, carpentry, and what 
not. So far nothing much that might not be found in many 
a primer in the West. But amongst the rest there are two 
references to the religious controversy. The second in order 
runs textually thus : 


We have no ikon at home; 

Have you, Sonk? 

No, we have no ikon either. 

We have a shelf in the corner 

(where the ikon would normally be), 

And on the shelf is the radio. 

Mamma, take away the ikons; 
We do not need ikons; 
Away with ikons! 

And above the print is a picture of the shelf and the radio 
set, with two infants seated on a form beside it, receivers 
to their ears, and a blissful smile on their faces. 

Now that, for what it is worth, is clearly pure anti- 
religious propaganda. It does not contain anything expressly 
controverting Christian doctrine, but the implication, the 
suggestion, is obvious. The object is definitely to accom 
plish what the other party in these matters describe as 
"poisoning the minds" of the children. Poisoning the minds 
of the children means, of course, teaching them what you 
believe, and failing to teach them what I believe. 


This Russian Business 

The other piece of religious (or anti-religious) instruction 
is on the opposite page. It follows after several little bits 
about the good points of collective farms, and is accom 
panied by a picture showing the village hall with an 
exhibition of very prosperous-looking vegetables and other 
farm products, and peasants looking on. One grey-bearded 
moujik, gazing in some amaze at these phenomenal 
pumpkins and carrots, is evidently intended to represent 
the hitherto uncollectivised peasant, the so-called "Single- 
Jack" who still hesitates to join the "artel." The hall has 
two posters displayed on the wall, with lettering in large 
print. The first runs, c lf you wish to increase your harvest, 
join the collective farm!" The second is, "Collective Labour 
and Science will give the harvest!" The text below the 
picture runs as follows : 


Do you want to increase the harvest? then help 

the collective farm in its work! 
Our harvest is not from God. . 
There is no God. 
If you wish to increase your harvest, join the 

collective farm! 

Now here in one sense you have anti-religious propaganda 
at its purest, at its most naive. This is the first beginning, 
the original germ to be introduced into the infant mind. 
From this a whole system of propaganda is to grow. And 
already there is no beating about the bush. Doctrine is 
definitely tackled, and atheism is boldly affirmed as an 
article of faith. At first sight it would seem that the ordinary 
political pre-occupations have been entirely lost sight of, 
and that this is an excursion into the realm of pure 
philosophy; the children are being taught atheism exactly 
as Italian children are taught Catholicism or German 


Russia and the Church 

children Lutheranism. No doubt, too, this might easily 
be justified. As the Western parent so often says, with a 
slightly worried accent, "One must teach the children 
something, you know." Which is generally an explanation 
of the children being sent to Sunday School, although the 
parent resolutely refuses to go to church. And if we thus 
use the phrase to justify teaching children what we do not 
believe ourselves, we can hardly refuse the Russian teachers 
the same justification for teaching what they do believe. 

But I think a more careful examination of the passage 
quoted shows all that to be rather beside the mark. For the 
context shows pretty clearly that the dogmatic sentences are 
after all propaganda, and not philosophy. Moreover, the 
propaganda is not of a purely religious kind, and even so 
far as it is religious it does not tackle the question of 
doctrine quite so fairly and squarely as it seemed to do. 
For it is peasants who are addressed, and the children of 
peasants, and the whole point is the choice suggested 
between two alternative methods of assuring or improving 
the yield of one s crops. The first method is to trust in God, 
to venerate ikons, to pray. The other is to join the collective 
farm, to use applied science, to use machinery, to co-operate. 
The propaganda is first and foremost a propaganda for the 
collectivisation of the land; the main inducement is the 
promise of better crops. And then the competing alternative 
is cried down; the God who is denied is the God of the 
harvest. Now the God of the harvest is a deity to whom a 
good part of the Christian world still pays some occasional 
lip-service, but it is hardly too much to say that prayer, 
as a means of effectively regulating rainfall and drought, 
is no longer much relied on by the more successful amongst 
European and American agriculturists. In Russia the theory 
probably holds its ground better; it would be rash to 
suggest that this propaganda merely beats the air. 

This Russian Business 

proper sense of the words ; the very idea of such a thing 
betrays a kck of the sense of proportion. 

Certainly there are, none the less, a ckss of critics who are 
definitely persuaded that something far deeper and more 
dire than a political motive may be discerned in the Bolshe 
viks. There are clerics, and perhaps even pontifls, who in 
all good faith go so far as to attribute to the Communist 
leaders something very like diabolic possession, and a 
definite traffic with the powers of evil for the purpose of 
afflicting the Church. This view is of course logical enough, 
but the vast majority of people do not find any sense in it; 
not because they are unwilling to think so much evil of the 
Bolsheviks, but simply because they do not believe in the 
possibility of that kind of evil. And when once explanations 
of that apocalyptic kind are excluded, it becomes evident 
that the conditions for an anti-religious animus on a krge 
scale and of an emotional nature, in other words, for such 
an animus as would be necessary to give body to anything 
like a persecution for conscience sake that these conditions 
simply do not exist. After all, you cannot very well have 
the oclium theokgicum without a theology. Mere agnosticism 
cannot rise to those heights of hatred which engender 
persecution, and Russia is essentially a secular and agnostic 
state. No secukr power will ever persecute any religion 
for religion s sake, unless in the interests of a rival religion. 
The Roman Empire persecuted, when it did persecute, 
mainly for political reasons. Yet it is clear that in that case 
it might conceivably have been otherwise, since there was 
in Rome an official State religion, even though it may have 
been a purely Roman religion, incapable of missionary 
zeal, and with hardly any trace of fanaticism. In Russk, 
on the other hand, the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, 
and the other existing religions of the land, have still a 
monopoly of supernatural doctrine, and are likely to have. 


Russia and the Church 

There Is nothing to arouse fanaticism or hatred on the 
part of the State or its governing cksses against these 
religions, as religions. There is so far no State religion, 
no rival candidate for their influence over the purely 
religious part of men s minds, no competing scheme of 
salvation in the world to come. 

But as far as these religious bodies are organised on a 
political basis and pursue political ends, the situation is 
obviously a very different one. There, the State s own field 
is trenched upon, the motive for hostile action is no longer 
wanting; and so long as the different churches lie under 
suspicion of political conspiracy, or even of fostering 
counter-revolutionary sympathies among their flocks, it 
needs no prophet to foretell the continuance on the part 
of the ruling power of an anti-clerical propaganda, or even 
(according to the sharpness of the need, or the imagined 
need) an anti-clerical persecution. 

But of course I have forgotten one motive, other than 
the political motive, which might conceivably move a 
Socialist Party, perhaps even a Socialist Government, to 
active and emotional hatred of religion, quite apart from 
the political attitude of the priesthood. There is always the 
principle contained in the famous, or infamous, axiom that 
"Religion is the opium of the people," meaning, in a crude 
paraphrase which will do for the present purpose, that 
religion as administered to the masses makes people seek 
their salvation in the hereafter instead of applying their 
energies to setting right the present world. This is admittedly 
a theme which is constantly harped on both in Russia and 
out of it, and there is obviously a certain amount of truth 
in the jibe that Socialists wish to abolish religion just in 
order to leave the people more time to think how badly 
off they are under Capitalism. But of course that will hardly 
do where the Socialists are themselves in power. In that case, 

Tfyis Russian Business 

by hypothesis, they have already abolished capitalism, at 
least as a dominating political force. They themselves are 
now the defenders of the status quo. It is they who are now 
likely to be blamed, justly or unjustly, for whatever presses 
upon the people; and it is against their own tents that any 
wind of change will blow. And if religion really benumbs 
people s faculties in the way suggested, it might with some 
plausibility be argued that the Bolsheviks ought in the 
interests of political stability (which is now their own 
interest) to encourage it as much as possible, in order to 
prevent people brooding over how badly off they are under 
Bolshevism. That is, if the people have or think they have 
any causes of complaint under that regime. And even if no 
shadow of complaint exists, religion of the opiate kind 
could at least do no harm. For if the people have no griev 
ances, if they are not badly off here and now, there is no 
danger of their wanting to change the present order, and 
it does not matter how much they dream about the world 
to come. And so far as there is anything at all in the opium 
theory, it hardly seems to matter whether the drug is self- 
administered, or whether a priestly class deliberately doses 
its parishioners for ulterior motives. For in this ktter case 
the ulterior motive only applies so long as the friends of 
the clergy are in power. If their enemies hold the reins of 
government, a drugged contentment is obviously not the 
state of mind the defeated party would desire in the popu 
lace. If the clergy wickedly distract men s attention from 
the injustices of this world, nobody has much of a grievance 
except the people who have some proposal or other for 
curing those injustices by a political revolution. But the 
Bolsheviks clearly do not want any more revolutions, not 
in Russia. They want to stand pat on the kst one. Anything 
that makes the people contented should be all to the good 
from their point of view, and if religion is truly the opium 


Russia and the Church 

of the proletariat, the Bolshevik Government plainly ought 
to increase the dose as much as possible. At home, that is. 

And yet they don t. Far from it. Not only does the 
Bolshevist State not support the Church; it goes to all this 
trouble of propaganda and preaching in order to diminish 
it and cry it down. The explanation, of course, is simply 
that the statement about religion being the opium of the 
proletarkt, which may or may not be still true in Western 
Europe, is quite obviously false in Soviet Russk, and is 
indeed the very reverse of the truth for all practical pur 
poses. Or at any rate the Bolsheviks, right or wrong, are 
quite obviously persuaded of its falsity, even though they 
still print it in krge letters on crimson banners and keep it 
inscribed in conspicuous pkces in the Red Square. If that 
old battle-cry is still to be regarded as charged with meaning, 
it must be referred exclusively to conditions in the unregen- 
erate capitalist world. As to Russia itself, the Bolsheviks 
quite obviously and quite honestly believe that the influence 
of the Church, generally speaking, is not a purely religious 
one, that the clergy do not now endeavour to divert the 
minds of the Russian masses from the present to the future 
world, but that on the contrary they endeavour to excite 
them to use the arm of flesh for the purpose of changing 
the things of this world more to the clergy s liking. In 
other words, they openly or secretly preach counter 
revolution, and do their best to incite their flocks, if not 
for the present to actual armed rebellion, at any rate to all 
kinds of passive resistance. 

Whether the Russkn clergy really do foment counter 
revolution, or whether, for example, they "sabotage" the 
existing Socklist revolution by throwing sand into the 
machinery of the Five Year Plan whenever opportunity 
offers all that is a question of pure fact which in principle 
ought to be decided, like all other questions of pure fact, 


This Russian Business 

by the evidence of credible witnesses. But a credible witness 
means an honest, fak-minded, and competent witness, and 
we all know, we knew even before the present era of 
frantic propaganda, that in contemporary political ques 
tions, speaking by and large, there are no such witnesses 
to be had. Not that no one knows any part of the facts, 
not that no one is honest, not that no one tries to be fair. 
But the thunder and crash of propaganda is far too great 
for ordinary men to be able to surely distinguish those 
modest voices amidst the general bedlam of reckless 
assertion and passionate denial, the yelling of demagogues, 
the screaming of party propagandists with axes to grind. 
And in order to distinguish them at all we are necessarily 
thrown back on confirmatory evidence of a vaguer but still 
in some ways a more reliable kind, in fact, upon certain 
sorts of circumstantial evidence. To patiently investigate 
a thousand contradictory reports of what individual clerics 
said in sermons or murmured to their parishioners over a 
glass of tea, and to form solely from this welter of confused 
tales a general and coherent idea of what the mind of the 
general body of Russian clerics is on these matters, and 
what general bias, if any, the Russian clerics as a class try 
to give to the opinions of the people, is clearly a task too 
great to be even attempted by modest contemporaries with 
a sense of proportion, especially if they are foreigners. But 
one thing we do know, that Russian clerics are men, with 
human instincts and human passions pretty much like 
yours and mine, and we can at least consider what their 
position is, and what we ourselves would feel inclined to do 
in thek pkces. Now their position is obviously this, that 
as a result of the Revolution thek whole lives have been 
suddenly and rudely changed for the worse. They were a 
privileged caste, a well-treated and well-fed division of the 
ruling class of society, with a secured position, comfortable 


Russia and the Church 

emoluments, and a prescriptive right to deference and 
honour. Even the humblest country priest was a powerful 
man in his village, and the Metropolitans and Patriarchs 
were very important personages indeed. All the clergy ate 
the bread of the Czars, and found it reasonably well 
buttered. Then all that is changed overnight, and in spite 
of foreign interventions and civil wars, the change endures 
like a nightmare which one cannot shake off. Now the 
clergy are outside the circle of the privileged cksses. The 
Church is disestablished. Its shameful riches are confiscated, 
its vast endowments have become public property, all the 
ecclesiastical revenues have suddenly dried up. The Revolu 
tionary State pays not a kopek towards the stipends of the 
clergy, which depend absolutely on the scanty and uncertain 
alms of their diminishing and doubtful parishioners. 
Instead of fat living and honour, there is an apostolic 
poverty and the neglect and contempt of the worldly,- 
things which ought, of course, to favour the growth of the 
primitive Christian virtues, but which of us honestly 
believes that they do? For, of course, the inquiry is not 
about the reactions of the heroic few, the chosen vessels, 
the salt wherewith the general body is savoured. What 
concerns us here is the way in which, say, seven-tenths of 
the clerical body, or more, may be expected to behave. No 
doubt a small minority of saintly souls might be in love 
with Poverty, like St. Francis, and welcome tribulations 
for the Kingdom of Heaven s sake. But in these days even 
the faithful find it hard to believe that any of the Christian 
priesthoods contain many men of the temper of Francis ; 
the most part are ordinary mortals who look to their profes 
sion first for bread and afterwards for edification. What 
will be their reaction to the regime which brings them to 
scorn and poverty? The saint may embrace affliction like 
a lover; the ordinary cleric is a very human person who is 


This Russian Business 

certain to resent it like an ordinary mortal To resent the 
results of the new regime means to desire the return of the 
old, and the Russian clergy would be more than human if 
action did not sometimes follow upon desire, as far as they 
are able to act, and as far as they dare. But how are they to 
act, and what weapons have they which they can use? The 
answer is obvious: they have a far-reaching influence on 
the minds of their congregations, and their obvious cue 
is to influence them in a thousand open or secret ways 
tending towards the preparation of a new revolution to 
restore the ancient order of things. More or less, openly 
or secretly, it is as certain as anything well can be that the 
principal weight of the clergy s influence will be thrown in 
the scale of counter-revolution. So long as human nature 
is human nature, it is unthinkable that any other thing 
should happen. It is not that no middle course is logically 
conceivable. It would be different if only one could believe 
that in spite of every temptation the vast majority of the 
clergy always absolutely and deliberately refrained on sheer 
principle from ever exercising any political influence at all. 
But who does believe that? What priestly organisation, or 
what secukr organisation either, for that matter, has ever 
shown such disinterestedness on a grand scale? All history 
holds no such example ; human nature is simply not made 
like that. When the vital interests of their order are at 
stake, the question is not whether the clergy exercise any 
influence of a political sort, but only which side they 
exercise it on, and once the question takes that form, it 
answers itself. 

That is surely the whole essence of the so-called religious 
question in Russia. There is not one jot of reliable evidence 
that the Russian Government has ever persecuted opinion 
for its own sake, or interfered with private religious beliefs, 
and no one with any insight into ordinary human nature 


Rassia and the Church 

or any sense of political realities can conceive of their 
deliberately doing anything so foolish and so irrelevant to 
their own purposes. But quite apart from their aggressive 
propaganda, one thing they undoubtedly have done is to 
confiscate the revenues of the organised Church, and 
thereby they have struck a tremendous blow at the worldly 
interests of the clergy. The Bolsheviks believe (and most 
sincere men will suspect that they have excellent grounds 
for the belief) that most of the clergy resent this state of 
things, and that consequently the clergy as a body are 
passively or actively anti-Bolshevik. As the Bolsheviks on 
their part lay no claim at all to Christian meekness, it follows 
from this that they are anti-clerical, and the whole business 
resolves itself into a struggle by the clergy to recover their 
ancient wealth and prestige, and a struggle by the Bolsheviks 
to keep things as they are, or even to weaken and destroy 
such prestige and influence as the clergy still dispose of for 
political purposes. 

The eventual issue of such a struggle is a fascinating 
subject for speculation. At present, of course, one may be 
sure that both parties are more or less in a death-or-victory 
mood. The clerical mind cannot possible envisage a far 
away future still dominated by the enemy. The wrath of 
God may afflict us for our sins, the Church may be scourged 
and chastised, but sooner or later the comfortable normal 
times must come back; it is impossible to believe that there 
will be centuries and centuries of Bolshevism. TheBolshevik 
mind on the other hand has an equal confidence that it is 
only a matter of time; light must prevail against darkness; 
after five or ten or twenty or fifty years, superstition will 
be entirely eradicated; scientific instruments will take the 
place of ikons, and all men will be reasonable and free. 
There is something a little naive about each of these anticipa 
tions, and yet it is clear enough that each of them is humanly 

This Russian Business 

possible; nay more, each of them has a reasonable chance 
of being completely realised; the nawete,> if any, lies only 
In the illusion of inevitability. For though logic and reason 
cry out against compromise, all experience shows that 
history frequently fails to arrange itself upon any reasonable 
basis. The philosophic historian can always plausibly trace 
any given state of things back to its causes, thus producing 
a comfortable illusion of rationality and continuity in 
human affairs; but one has an uneasy feeling that this is 
frequently done by neglecting or pushing into the back 
ground the far weightier causes which simply frittered 
themselves away, or checkmated each other, without produc 
ing any effects at all. The giants die childless, and pigmies 
inherit the coming years. The principle of mere chance, 
the eventual prevailing of the feebler causes, rules a far 
larger part of human history than human vanity likes 
to believe. 

Supposing then that it happens so in the present case, 

supposing that neither agnostic Socialism nor organised 

Christianity (worthy antagonists though they be, each lithe 

of limb and sound of wind, each fit and apt enough for 

eventual victory) should at last succeed in eliminating the 

other from Russia, in "liquidating" the other, as* one says 

in the current language. What will happen then? Is there to 

be a sort of perpetual tie and wrangle, an endemic struggle, 

reduced perhaps in proportions and intensity, a smouldering 

fire that never quite flares up and never quite goes out? 

It is at least conceivable ; there is precedent enough. The 

history of the Protestant schism in the Christian Church 

presents a partial analogy; the mediaeval strife of Emperor 

and Pope, the Gallican controversy in France, the age-long 

rivalry of Germany and France, even the class struggle 

itself, the perpetual strife of rich and poor within the 

nations, all these are phenomena which in different 


Russza and the Church 

and measures tend to persuade us that states of unstable 
equilibrium, so far from being in the long run impossible, 
are of the very texture of history; the indecisive struggle, 
the battle perpetually drawn, is at least as normal as victory 
and defeat. 

The other possible issue is perhaps a deliberate compro 
mise, an eventual agreement of the Concordat type. At the 
moment nothing could possibly seem more absurd, less 
"realist/ to either of the parties engaged. And yet there are 
surely some chances in its favour, assuming that the struggle 
goes on long enough to leave both sides a little weary. 
For after all, in spite of the shocking wickedness of the 
Bolsheviks, in spite of the drug-administering habits of 
the clergy, it is hard to see what logical irreconcilability 
exists between Socialism and dogmatic religion. The Roman 
Catholic communion must of course be left out of the 
question ; there, no doubt, the encyclical and the principle 
of infallibility do between them bar the way. But the real 
representative of Christianity in Russia is of course the 
Orthodox Church, and its hands are free. When the essential 
dogmas of both sides are boiled down, it is after all true 
that they do not cover the same ground. There is no logical 
reason, in spite of encyclicals, why given historical views 
as to the life of Christ, or given opinions as to the nature 
of the soul or the existence of God or of a future life, 
should have anything whatever to do with the way the 
state or the community organises itself for purposes of 
the production, distribution, and exchange of commodities. 
And on the other side, even Socialist human beings must 
have some opinions or other on those religious matters, 
and these abstract opinions have clearly no necessary 
connection with or influence on their activities as workers, 
or producers, or even members of Soviets. There may be 
many incidental opportunities for friction, but surely the 


This Russian Business 

point is that all the opportunities are incidental; there is 
no inherent incompatibility. 

If so much is once granted, the conception of an eventual 

Concordat at any rate ceases to be absurd in principle. 

Theoretically the thing is perfectly simple, and things that 

are theoretically possible are rather like the distant relatives 

of dukes ; to-day their chances of succession are negligible, 

but a sudden death or two may change all that before 

to-morrow s light. Politics, especially in these revolutionary 

days, are full of sudden deaths. Age-long traditions and 

obvious expediencies are abandoned and transformed with 

bewildering rapidity, America makes war in Europe, kings* 

crowns are six a penny, the Temporal Power reappears, 

nicely balanced on a threepenny-bit, Spain goes anti-cleric 

and the Turk puts on trousers and walks into mosques 

with his boots on. After all that, it would hardly be very 

surprising if the Orthodox Church and the Soviet Power 

some day conspired to forget a little history and suffer each 

other with some show of gladness, rather than continue 

indefinitely to bear, on both sides, the enormous expense 

and discomfort of a hundred per cent, liquidation campaign 

in which the risk of liquefaction can never be altogether 

restricted to the adversary. How far the doubtful truce 

between the Patriarch Tikhon and his followers and the 

Soviet Power may be thought to tend in the direction of 

such a settlement is probably a question still too premature 

even for guessing. But of course the real stumbling-block 

will always be the question of money. The State might well 

abandon an unsuccessful anti-religious and anti-clerical 

propaganda in return for a serious promise of loyalty; and 

a Russian church at last definitely persuaded that Bolshevism 

could not be shifted either by force or finesse could easily 

enough discover that Communism was a form of social 

organisation not wholly disapproved by God, and might 


Russia and the Church 

even, after a decent interval, expressly invest the powers 
that be with that divine right which long continuance 
confers on even the most unlikely of regimes. But in such 
negotiations there must obviously be a quid pro quo. No 
Concordat hitherto known has been accepted by the 
clergy which failed to provide, in some fairly substantial 
measure, for the payment of their stipends and other 
ecclesiastical expenses out of the public purse. And even if 
a Socialist government felt itself rich enough to purchase 
loyalty at that considerable price, there remains the question 
of prestige. Clovis could afford to adore what he had 
burnt, and burn what he had adored, but after a thousand 
years the French Revolution could not have turned its coat 
with equal impunity ; it was left for Napoleon to restore the 
dispossessed Church to its ancient honours. It is the same 
with all new powers; compromise often offers them the 
most tempting material advantages, and sometimes it is 
by far the easiest way of avoiding imminent perils, but 
compromise almost always leads to disaster. A revolutionary 
government cannot afford to go to Canossa. If Emperors 
are wrong, they may be allowed to repent, and afterwards, 
with luck, they may dust their knees and put on their 
crowns again. But a revolution imposes itself by dint of 
being in the right, and it must deny itself (at least in 
public) the luxury of repentance until its power has lasted 
so long that its revolutionary origin is forgotten. So that 
we shall most likely be denied the spectacle of the Holy 
Synod canonising Lenin, or the Metropolitan solemnly 
blessing the standards of the Red Army. 

A Censorship or Two 

IT WAS IN KIEV, while we stood on a height looking out 
over the wide plain of the Dnieper, all red and gold with 
the autumn foliage, that Augustus finally despaired of the 
Revolution, as far as the things of the mind were con 
cerned. He should have been looking at the scenery, but 
instead of that he had been trying to convince Maria 
Petrovna that no censorship exists in England. He seemed 
to be making very little headway, and this led him to com 
plain kter on that Maria Petrovna was stupid and obstinate. 
Now this is not quite fair. Mark Petrovna (whom I salute) 
is extremely intelligent. I cannot deny that she was not 
only obstinate, but also wrong. But then Augustus was 
rather aggressive, and when Augustus is aggressive it 
requires more than human virtue to refrain from being 
obstinate in sheer self-defence. The perfect apostle must 
never be contentious, in spite of Pauline precedents. The 
truth presented in a contentious manner may still be the 
truth, but it is much harder to get it believed. And Augustus 
has rather a habit of asserting that two and two makes 
four in a challenging and matter-of-course tone of voice 
which immedktely suggests to simple and unwary souls 
that he is nothing but a partisan and an advocate, that there 
must be something fishy about the statement, and that he 
is probably paid to say so. So that when Mark insists on 
making it five, which she sometimes does, Augustus s 
wrath is not as effective as it ought to be. 

The dispute emerged from an earnest attempt on the part 
of Augustus to extract from Maria Petrovna a coherent 
account of the Russian kws rekting to copyright, which 


A Censorship or Two 

of course he ought to have gone and looked up in a book. 
It became clear fairly early in the cross-exaroination that 
there were gaps in Maria Petrovna s knowledge of the 
subject. At a certain point Augustus began to make heavy 
weather of it, and this evidently irritated him. He obviously 
felt that Maria Petrovna was keeping something back. It 
was evidently one of the things which guides were not 
allowed to tell strangers about. Now Maria is both intelli 
gent and well educated, but she is only twenty or so, and 
is quite a personable young thing, with a rather captivating 
smile. It seems likely enough that she has found something 
more interesting to do with her springtime years than to 
acquire an encyclopaedic knowledge of these somewhat 
abstruse matters, even if she does belong to the League of 
Communist Youth. 

But whether she didn t know or wasn t allowed to tell, 
Augustus did at kst discover that Russian authors were not 
paid by the State at a flat rate of so much per line, as he had 
feared, but that they received royalties just like other 
authors. This would have been satisfactory enough, if it 
were not that they seemed to be taxed on their receipts on 
the same basis as traders and other unprivileged classes, 
whereas most ordinary people were practically exempt from 
direct taxation. This discovery obviously embittered 
Augustus. It was not only that authors (and artists) were 
unfairly taxed. They were also lumped with traders, which 
was a matter of prestige. After wringing this fatal admission 
from Maria s reluctant lips, he proceeded to further develop 
the theme of the oppression of authors by the Soviet Power. 
The dialogue went something like this : 

AUG. Then of course there is the Censorship. Your authors 
can only write what the Government allows them to 

This Russian Business 

MARIA (eagerly and rashly). No, no ! They can write whatever 
they like ! 

AUG. But the Censorship! The Censorship! Books are 
censored. Aren t they? 

MARIA (reluctantly). Yes, they are censored. (Then brightly) 
But that is only for political matters. You have been 
telling me that a writer who is really a good writer, 
whose works are really literature, does not put politics 
into his books. You say it is not a work of art if it 
is didactic. 

It was true, Augustus had been incautious enough to say 
just that, in a tirade on art for art s sake with which he had 
improved Maria Petrovna s mind a little earlier in the 
afternoon. She saw from his face that he was momentarily 
quelled, and hurried on to clinch the argument. "If there is 
no politics in the book, the censor will pass it. It is only 
the books which you do not approve of that are censored." 
Augustus swallowed once or twice, and then rallied. "It 
isn t only what I like," he said handsomely. "A man should 
be at liberty to publish a bad book if he wants to. You 
prevent him doing so. That is tyranny!" Maria Petrovna 
saw that she was losing ground. She instantly threw consis 
tency to the dogs, and fell back on her kst trenches. "But of 
course I" she said, "if people write propaganda against us, 
if they try to wreck our great work before it is finished, how 
can we stand by and let them do it? Those people are 
dangerous, they are enemies to the State what do you 
call it, traitors ! They must not be allowed to tell lies and 
poison the people s minds!" And Mark Petrovna s voice 
became sonorous, and her eyes flashed. She meant every 
word of it. I began at kst to understand what kind of people 
write the more emotional anti-Socialist articles in the 
English newspapers. If Maria Petrovna ever had a row with 

1 60 

A. Censorship or Two 

the Soviet Power, I am sure I could get her a job as a special 
leader-writer on any of the London dailies, and without 
any sacrifice of conscience on her part. It would only be 
necessary for her to write down exactly what she thinks, 
and then some prudent friend could go over the proof of 
her articles and strike out the words "bourgeois" and 
"capitalist" wherever they occurred, and insert in their 
pkces other words like "Communist" and "Soviet," and 
no one would know the difference. But she was still 
speaking . . . "and you know you have a censorship in 
England, exactly the same ! People cannot publish Commu 
nist books in England, or make Communist speeches. If 
they do they are sent to prison." Now Maria Petrovna really 
believes this, all of it, and it is pretty evident that most 
Russians believe it. It is, Augustus says, a piece of infamous 
propaganda. He did his best for nearly half an hour to make 
this clear to Maria Petrovna. He told her that she must 
not believe what she read in the Moscow newspapers. He 
explained to her that in England there was absolute free 
speech and complete liberty of the Press, and that anybody 
could write what he liked, and anybody could say what he 
liked. In fact, he made rather a welter of it. Mark P., 
flushed and protesting, was overborne, but unconvinced. 
She even appealed to me to tell her honestly whether books 
were not censored in Engknd. When I told her they were 
not, as far as I knew, I plainly dropped in her estimation. 
I could see that she doubted my good faith. She gave me a 
look, more in sorrow than in anger, which seemed to say 
that she had expected better things from me. I could almost 
hear her saying to herself, resignedly, that of course the 
English were not allowed to tell the truth about these 

But Augustus got nothing out of his victory, for the 
School Teacher afterwards took us both to task for being 

161 L 

This Russian Business 

disingenuous. <c lt s all very fine," she said, "but you 
tell her the truth, either, not all of it. You only told her 
as much as it suited you to tell. She happened to ask you 
just about books. But what about plays? The Lord Chamber 
lain has something to say to that, hasn t he? And you know 
jolly well that when it comes to speeches they do put 
Communists in prison quite often." "But that s sedition!" 
retorted Augustus, "those people are revolutionaries. 
They re a public menace." "I know," replied the School 
Teacher, but that s just exactly what Maria Petrovna says 
about the other people. And it isn t only Communism, 
either. Didn t you tell me the other day that people can still 
be tried and sent to prison for bksphemy? And even 
denying the truth of Christianity is legally blasphemy, isn t 
it? You ought to have told Maria all that, just to give her 
a fair chance. But you don t. You take a mean advantage of 
your superior knowledge to argue the poor girl down." 
Augustus denied this accusation with suitable vehemence. 
But of course it was more or less true. If we had been per 
fectly candid, we ought to have mentioned those other 
things in order to present a complete and truthful picture 
of this English liberty of ours. I put it to Augustus that 
perhaps he ought in conscience to have qualified his denials 
a little. But he said there wasn t much in that. The censor 
ship of plays was not the same thing. If people really wanted 
to know what was in the pky, they could always read it. 
And speeches were entirely different. Speeches were made 
by all sorts of people to a promiscuous crowd. That made 
all the difference. I pondered this last statement for some 
little time before it dawned on me what Augustus really 
meant. Of course it was that the things be wants to be said 
are mostly said by rather academic people in books, and 
are read by the better sort, who can afford books at seven 
and sixpence or so a copy. Whereas at public meetings 


A. Censorship or Two 

persons from anywhere and everywhere, persons whom 
Augustus calls demagogues, mere rough working-men as 
likely as not, say all sorts of things that Augustus dis 
approves of. 

When one gets down to rock bottom, I think he is right. 
More and more I feel that we are fundamentally in agreement 
about all this propaganda question. The essential point is 
quite clear. We must have lots and lots of propaganda of 
the sort I believe in, and as far as possible all other propa 
ganda should be stopped. That is the whole thing in a 
nutshell. And when I come to think of it, that is obviously 
pretty much how Maria Petrovna feels about it too. We are 
all agreed on fundamental principles. There isn t twopence 
worth of difference between any of us. Except, of course, 
that we are all on different sides, and my side is the right 
one. "Yes/ said the School Teacher, "but which side are 
you on?" "I don t quite know yet," I answered meekly, 
* c but it will be the right one as soon as I am on it." 

But whether the pot is any blacker than the kettle or not, 
there certainly does grow upon one the impression that 
Russia is almost a watertight compartment as far as informa 
tion coming from the rest of Europe is concerned. The 
Russians have always spoken of "Europe" as if they were 
outside it, and in mind and outlook they are surely as far 
outside it now as they ever were, though for different 
reasons. The gulf between Europe and the backward 
Czardom has been replaced by the gulf between backward 
Europe and the Revolution. The atmosphere of war still 
persists, the state of tension, the nervous repulsion, the 
impossibility of intellectual mingling, the mutual fear of 
contamination. So the Russians (though not they alone) 
can have no experience of give and take, no real interchange 
of ideas (for how shall heresy and orthodoxy exchange 
ideas) and this lends an air of unreality to their conceptions 

This Russian Business 

of the contemporary life of the West. Of course the censor 
ship, the deliberate exclusion of foreign political or tenden- 
cious literature, plays its part, perhaps a decisive part, in 
strengthening the tradition of aloofness and remoteness 
which has persisted through so many centuries. But I 
suspect that the internal propaganda has at bottom a far 
stronger influence in that direction. People do not become 
insular and limited so much because of the ideas which do 
not reach them, as because of the ideas which monopolise 
their minds. And if propaganda tends to narrow a nation s 
mind and throw its judgment somewhat out of focus, this 
is not without some effect, in the long run, upon the nature 
of the propaganda itself, for the very propagandist is 
continually worked upon, more or less, by his own sugges 
tions, so that at last his picture becomes a conventional 
daub, and his characters are no longer caricatures of any 
thing that lives, but rather something like the allegorical 
Virtues and Vices in a mystery play, mere symbolical 
marionettes, even though they bear the names of famous 
or notorious individuals. 

The "anti-religious" museum in St. Isaac s contains a 
whole series of posters, caricatures, waxwork groups, and 
so on, showing in graphic or plastic form a number of 
notable personages of the Western world plotting together 
for the overthrow of Soviet Russia. A group that recurs 
more than once consists of Raymond Poincare (which 
dates the picture), Ramsay MacDonald, and the Pope, all 
hobnobbing together, drawing each other into corners, 
whispering in each other s ears, all three looking very much 
like conspirators, and all evidently on familiar terms. And 
this cheek-by-jowl juxtaposition does not seem to strike 
anybody as in the least incongruous. Now Ramsay 
MacDonald, and the Pope, and Poincar too, are all very 
respectable persons, and I believe it is true that all of them 


A Censorship or 

have at some time and in some way spoken ill of Bolshevik 
Russia. But I do not believe that they consulted each other 
beforehand, or that they meet in an attic to concoct 
nefarious schemes, or even that they send each other little 
notes suggesting the next moves in the campaign against 
the Soviet Republics. And somehow or other one gets the 
impression that in Russia there is not much difficulty in 
believing that kind of thing, that for instance the extreme 
practical unlikelihood of these three personages having ever 
been together in the same room does not make any impres 
sion on the Russian imagination, or in any way spoil the 
effect of the cartoon. Of course the more intelligent 
propagandee will not take the attic and the whispering and 
the drawing into corners literally. But I think it is clear 
that the main notion of previous consultation, of deliberate 
co-operation, is taken literally; there is a curious failure 
to realise that Soviet Russia is not the only preoccupation 
of Western statesmen, and that just because most of the 
Capitalist countries react in pretty much the same way to 
successive phases in the Revolution, it does not always 
follow that they have a common plan of concerted action 
elaborately worked out in advance. Substantially, the 
suggestion of an ultimate common front may be true 
enough; but the presentation occasionally strikes one as 
rather naive. One such instance does not amount to much, 
but when one finds the same sort of slightly theatrical 
conventionalism often repeated, one begins to suspect that 
there is something just a shade too simple, too obviously 
cut-and-dried, about the views of Western Europe presented 
to the Russian mind. 

It is the censorship, of course, which makes this unreality 
possible. If there were any kind of counter-propaganda, the 
official propaganda would probably be considerably im 
proved in quality, at least in this particular respect. The 


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censorship is almost the one institution of Czarist days which 
the Revolution did not sweep away, and by all accounts it 
is just about as strict now as it was then. Only of course it 
is the opposite things which are forbidden. It must bring 
a wan smile sometimes to the faces of at least the older 
generations of Russians, when they meditate on the con 
tinuity of the instrument of suppression, and on the totally 
diverse nature of the opinions and tendencies which it 
suppresses, or tries to suppress. All that was permitted 
fifteen years ago is now forbidden; all that was forbidden 
is now permitted, more or less. And if in a few years time 
the Bolsheviks fall and the Czardom comes to the top 
again, no doubt the situation will be reversed once more, 
and so on over and over again, as often as Russia tosses 
wearily from side to side. In the long run, of course, the 
people get both sides of the question, even all sides of it. 
But human life is too short for such a method of getting 
at the truth to be really satisfactory. If we poor things of 
wasting clay are to judge these matters at all, we can hardly 
afford to listen to the plaintiffs speech, and then wait 
expectantly ten or fifteen years for the defendant s reply. 
Still, it is hard to see what can be done about it, so long as 
all the Governments of Europe, and of the world, continue 
to outvie each other, according to their means and as far 
as they dare, in the struggle to prevent their respective 
peoples from hearing the truth. Because of course the 
truth is the one thing which calls imperatively for suppres 
sion, the one thing which in the long run can be dealt with 
in no other way. If your enemy tells lies, you can show 
him up, if you have the ear of the people, and a Government 
(at least a Government strong enough and resolute enough 
to force some kind of common fairness on the Press) can 
always get that. He may beat you even then; the people 
do not always choose the truth even on those rare and 


A Censorship or Two 

golden occasions when both sides are fairly put. If you 
want to make dead certain of victory you must not play 
- fair. But then, although you keep the power, you admit 
yourself in the wrong, and you take a remoter but a heavier 
risk, the risk of violent overthrow. If you do play fair, and 
the truth is with you, you have at least the odds in your 
favour. But if on the contrary your adversary has the truth 
on his side, yotfr path may be dangerous, but at least it lies 
plain before you. In such a case there are only two courses 
open, even to the most Machiavellian of Governments. 
Your best plan is to knock him on the head, and be done 
with it. But if his head is too tough, or if he turns out to 
be a multitude with many heads, there may be some diffi 
culty about that. In that case you must at least prevent him 
from getting a hearing. And that (combined with a discreet 
amount of breaking crowns) is actually, in bolder or more 
timid form, the settled policy of most of the Governments 
of the world. 

There is a defence commonly set up for the Communist 
censorship, perhaps a specious one. Specious or not, it is 
a defence which, for what it may be worth, was not available 
for the Czars, and is not now available for the so-called 
democratic Governments of Western Europe and America. 
They say, the Bolshevik apologists, that the censorship is 
no part of their system, and will disappear when that 
system is fully established. It is part and parcel of the 
dictatorship, and will live and die with the dictatorship. 
It is a temporary weapon for the defence of the revolution 
in the period of struggle and transition. This period is 
likened (it is an ever-recurring analogy) to a state of war, 
and when one considers the intensity of the class struggle 
in Russia, and even in the West, one cannot say that the 
analogy is an extravagant one. Now in time of war, or of 
the danger of war, every State in the world finds it necessary 

This Russian Business 

to adopt exceptional methods of self-protection, and these 
are all justified by hard necessity, by the elementary law 
of self-preservation. Martial law, the state of siege, the 
suspension of political rights, the suppression of the rights 
of assembly and free speech all these are measures which 
almost everyone has agreed to regard as necessary and 
justifiable in an emergency. Solus populi suprema lex, from 
the days of Cicero downwards. And the only reasonable 
attitude towards that apology is to wait and see. If the 
dictatorship completes its tasks and lays down its arbitrary 
authority, the apology will be justified by all ordinary rules. 
But if on the contrary the dictatorship turns out with the 
lapse of years to be only a self-seeking oligarchy with no 
end in view but the perpetuation of its own existence, then 
every violent act by which it defended its power, including 
the censorship, will be manifestly shown to have been 
unjustifiable and criminal, not only arbitrary but also 
fraudulent in the highest degree. Even the Czar s Govern 
ment stood condemned in the eyes of Europe, not so much 
because of the evil it did, as because of the patent fact that 
all those evil things were done with the single purpose of 
preserving the autocracy. The autocracy was to be eternal : 
it never even pretended to be a temporary and transitional 
dictatorship. It did not regard itself or proclaim itself as 
a steward for the time to come; it was itself by right divine 
the destined ruler of all the Russias that ever were to be. 

And in the matter of censorship, Western Europe lies 
under that same heavy condemnation. For we have a 
censorship, of sorts, even here in England; we do interfere 
with opinion; we do suppress one side of the case, so far 
as we can manage it, and by such partly indirect means as 
our Government has the courage to use. It is not merely 
the rather ridiculous activities of the Lord Chamberlain, 
nor even the sporadic interference with meetings and 


A. Censorship or Two 

demonstrations. The worst thing, the most startling inva 
sion of liberty (if anything could still startle us in these 
days) is the deliberate inclusion of a sort of indirect censor 
ship in public treaties with a foreign Power. We have heard 
before this of the never-ending audacity of elected persons, 
but we seldom realise the enormous impertinence of the 
provision in the Russian treaties relating to abstaining from 
propaganda in England. Englishmen were formerly accus 
tomed to think they had a right to hear all that was to be 
said on a subject, to listen to every side of a case, and to 
judge for themselves. But it turns out that that was all 
wrong. The sovereign people is not nearly so sovereign as 
it thought it was. If its rulers and tutors are to be believed, 
it is not even adult. It has to be protected against itself, and 
certain doctrines must be kept from its hearing, just as 
certain plays and pictures are banned for persons under 
sixteen. The astounding fact is there (and if it fails to astound 
us, that very failure will stagger the imaginations of our 
grandchildren, when they study the history of this incompre 
hensible period) that our Government has deliberately and 
impudently contracted with a foreign Government over our 
heads for the purpose of excluding certain political doctrines 
from the list of the things we are allowed to hear or read 
about. And it is only in the dimmest way that we realise 
that we are being treated like children; it is only very 
occasionally that we ask ourselves who are these egregious 
persons who have taken on themselves to protect us in 
this grandmotherly manner, what manner of men they can 
be who have thus bargained with foreigners that they shall 
not say shocking things in the children s hearing. But if 
we do make these inquiries, we find of course, with a 
certain stupefaction, that these intellectually stronger and 
worthier men, these predigesters of information for 
assimilation by the weaker-headed masses, these self- 


This Russian Business 

appointed sentinels at our spiritual gates, who act as a kind 
of moral filter, preventing the flow into our minds of 
whatever is not pure and good and beautiful that these 
super-men are after all only the same poor fellows who 
come cap in hand to us at election times, and with tears in 
their voices beg us to accord them the honour of being 
our servants for a further term of years, and that their 
names are but we all know their names. Some of them 
are very worthy fellows in their way. But, with our hands 
upon our hearts, I do not think we can conscientiously say 
that we think they are the men for so tremendous and 
presumptuous an office as the bowdlerising of the world 
for the benefit of their fellow-citizens. Of course it is not 
merely a question of the intemperate zeal of the orthodox 
for pure untainted doctrine. A point of subsidiary but yet 
considerable importance is that if these heretical opinions 
should ever prevail in England, all the people who are now 
in power will be out of power, and most of those who hope 
to get in will never get in. Iniquity is not made any the less 
bkck by the reflection that if iniquity prevails, they, the 
defenders of righteousness, will be definitely out of the 
swim. If therefore the mind of the man in the streets of 
England is really so immature that political doctrine must 
be edited ad mum Delphini for his consumption, it would 
at least seem reasonable that the editors should not be 
politicians with an axe to grind. 

But one very significant thing about this interference 
with the expression of opinion, this tragi-comic tariff-wall 
against ideas, is that in this instance the thing is done by 
a settled Government functioning on a permanent basis, 
with a long tradition of stability behind it. There is no 
pretext of a temporary dictatorship, no excuse of a period 
of transition. Our Government cannot say that it is busy 
consolidating a revolution, and must not be disturbed tiU 


A Censorship or Two 

it has finished. If the structure of our State is not solid now, 
it never will be. We have centuries of normal political life 
behind us a political life which may be good, bad or 
indifferent in every other respect, but which is undeniably 
normal, continuous, flowing more or less steadily in the 
same direction, without violent upheavals or sudden 
revolutionary changes. If we cannot have liberty now, when 
are we to expect it? 

AUGUSTUS. But do you at all realise that an unchecked 
Communist propaganda might be so effective that the 
whole of the masses might be poisoned by it? 
("Poisoned" is what he said. The mere fact that 
Augustus intends to take the question by storm, by 
sheer force of logic, never prevents him from begging 
it to begin with.) Supposing they were allowed free 
propaganda, and supposing they gained over the great 
bulk of the labouring classes, what would you have 
the Government do then? 

MYSELF (swallowing hard). But what does the Government 
generally do, for instance, after an election, when the 
Opposition s propaganda wins over the labouring 

AUGUSTUS. That s not the same thing at all. 

THE SCHOOL TEACHER (interrupting). I m not so sure about 
this business of a mutual agreement to abstain from 
propaganda, like the British and Russian treaty. 
I don t see anything against it in principle. Only of 
course you ought to have both kinds of propaganda 
stopped in the same country, not one in one country 
and one in another. 

AUGUSTUS (rather suspiciously). I don t quite see what you 

THE SCHOOL TEACHER. Well, take elections, for instance. 

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Everybody agrees that there s far too much election 
eering, too much talk and chatter and shouting and 
press campaigning, and the unfortunate elector doesn t 
get the ghost of a chance to any quiet thinking, which 
is what he s supposed to do, after all. I think it would 
be a good idea if the Government and the Opposition 
could make a bargain that there shouldn t be any 
propaganda whatever for six weeks or so immediately 
before the election. No speeches, no posters, no news 
paper articles, nothing at all. You could have the 
regular election campaign before the six weeks started, 
and end up with a winding-up speech by the leaders 
of all the parties. And then silence until election day. 
Think how heavenly that would be. And we could 
all think like anything for about forty days, without 
being worried by anybody ! 

There was something so fascinating, and at the same time 

almost apocalyptic, about this monstrous vision of a 

thousand politicians gagged and speechless at the most 

exciting time of their lives, compulsorily holding their 

breaths in an awful stillness of six mortal weeks, a still- 

ness pregnant and throbbing with the steady concentrated 

thinking of twenty million electors, that Augustus and I 

both became slightly dashed in our spirits, and even a little 

appalled; and somehow we never got back to our previous 

subject. Augustus s sentence still hangs petrified in mid-air, 

and I do not know to this day why it was not the same 

thing at all. And it is for that reason that I continue to 

think, ignorantly it may be, that the principal reason for 

all suppression of political propaganda is that the people 

who are in power want to stay there, and even when they 

are quite honest, they are usually naive enough to believe 

that no catastrophe could possibly threaten the nation 


A. Censorship or Two 

which would be more disastrous than the loss of their own 
services. The illusion of indispensability lies somewhere 
near the root of most genuine political intolerance, whether 
the thing felt to be indispensable is one s own co-operation 
merely, or that of one s caste or party. 

In one sense, of course, it may be suggested that all these 
negative interferences with free judgment, censorships and 
bargains about propaganda and what not, are rather beside 
the mark, and even that their use betokens an undue 
timidity on the part of the powers that be, at least wherever 
those powers have in any case a practical monopoly of the 
machinery of propaganda in their own hands. There is no 
special point in stopping somebody else s propaganda, if 
you are in a position to get practically the same result by 
simply making your own propaganda more intense. To a 
certain extent it is a question of which side has the most 
money to pay for publicity, to bribe or browbeat newspapers, 
and so on. That method may seem a cumbrous and expen 
sive one, but it does avoid certain manifest risks in riding 
too hard on the curb. And the result achieved is nearly the 
same in each case. You only want to silence your opponent 
in a general way and for practical purposes ; and it makes 
comparatively little difference in the end to either of you 
whether you gag him, or only shout him down. Although 
on second thoughts the loser would probably prefer the 
shouting-down method, even so. Even though one were 
certain to lose the match, it would always be a comfort to 
have shouted one s loudest. 

Well, in Russia that question does not arise; you must 
not shout at all, unless you are licensed for that purpose. 
Shouting is frankly a privilege of the orthodox, a monopoly 
of the supporters of the dictatorship. It must be very galling 
to the people who want to talk themselves, and are not 
allowed to, even from the merely personal standpoint. And 

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it is worse than that, for the official propaganda is so 
intense that it is practically impossible not to listen to it, 
even if you don t like it. It is bad enough for people who 
feel that they could play Hamlet to be for ever banished 
from the stage, but it is worse still if they are chained every 
evening to a seat in the auditorium and obliged to sit 
through endless inferior performances by second-rate 
actors. One cannot help feeling that probably even the most 
convinced -supporters of this political repertory company 
would appreciate an occasional change of programme. 
They may believe all this combination of propaganda and 
censorship to be a necessity, but they obviously must 
sometimes wish that it were not a necessity. I am sure, for 
instance, that Maria Petrovna feels that the censorship is 
a thing which must be defended, yes, but which it would 
be more comfortable not to have to defend. 


The Last Word Wins 

COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA in Russia has the same insistent 
assertiveness, the same obstinately penetrating qualities, 
as commercial advertisement in Europe and America, It 
is everywhere. It is all-pervading and all-overflowing. It 
does not always shout. It runs up and down the whole 
gamut from, trumpeting to whispering, from intolerant 
assertiveness to almost imperceptible suggestion. All the 
instruments of publicity, direct and indirect, are pressed 
into service. There is the poster, the press, the theatre, the 
cinema, lectures, speeches, broadcasting, pamphlets, every 
thing. But the star performance is of course the poster. 
Posters are everywhere, in the streets and squares, on 
railway stations, festooned across the railway, posted on 
the walls, set up in museums. Bright colours, futurist 
designs, melodramatic grouping of figures, all the imagin 
able devices for capturing the attention are brought into 
play. Here the gigantic figures of the capitalist and the 
militarist stamp with hobnailed boots upon the poor; there 
Ramsay MacDonald and the Pope join secret hands behind 
a battery of cannon pointed at die Soviet Republics. Many 
of the posters are extremely crude, but they are as often 
extremely effective. Even the fiercest of Bolshevik-eaters 
are constrained to admit that Soviet Russia has quite 
definitely made a success of the poster, at any rate from an 
artistic and technical point of view. One may or may not 
agree with the moral pointed by the picture, but it is often 
impossible to deny that it is extremely well painted. No 
doubt the illiteracy of a large portion of the population 
(especially in the country) accounts for the tremendous 


This Russian Business 

development of this particular form of propaganda, and 
also to some extent for the propaganda film. Illiteracy is a 
condition which has left almost no mark on the productions 
of the Western commercial propagandists, the advertisers. 
They have, it is true, relied a good deal on the imbecility 
of the advertisement-reading public, but that is by no means 
the same thing. The advertiser s public is imbecile but 
educated, the public of the Russian poster propagandist is 
intelligent but ignorant. Whether either public really exists 
in the measure that its respective suggestion-mongers 
believe, is of course quite another question. 

Then there is the propagandist museum, and this again 
might be roughly paralleled amongst ourselves, not of 
course by museums, but rather by exhibitions, shows of 
this and that industry; the same kind of technical and 
artistic ingenuity has gone into both sets of activities. 
There are Museums of the Revolution, Historical Museums, 
and so on, all expounding in graphic or plastic form the 
struggle of the proletariat in every country against its 
oppressors, showing forth the acceptable political and 
economic creeds in a thousand ingenious shapes and 
settings, preaching the pure Bolshevik doctrine in pictures 
that need no written commentary. 

But the written commentary is not wanting; mottoes, 
maxims, slogans and catchwords are everywhere. The 
coinage is stamped, "Workers of all lands, unite!" The 
outsides of matchboxes, the tins of shoe-polish, the wrap 
pings of small purchases are printed over with denunciations 
of foreign interventionists- or exhortations to further the 
Five Years Plan. Even trade marks and conventional designs 
are made to yield whatever juice of doctrinal suggestion 
can be squeezed out of them. The hammer and the sickle 
are everywhere, probably the only other emblem that has 
ever been reproduced so many times is the lictor s axe, the 


The Last Word Wins 

symbol of Fascist Italy. I remember at Kiev one of the 
exhibitions of textiles produced by the local Soviet factories, 
where, amongst other things, they had many new designs in 
patterned prints and other cotton fabrics. A German lady 
tourist was admiring one of these very much from a little 
distance, but closer inspection revealed that the pattern 
was composed of thousands and thousands of minute red 
tractors, a mute reminder of the collective farms. The 
Fraulein bought a piece of stuff with a flowered pattern 
instead. She said she refused to be dressed entirely In 
agricultural machinery. 

Then of course there is the radio. Free radio. Radio is 
far too valuable not to be given away. You find it in workers* 
clubs, in peasants hostels, in schools, in restaurants, on 
ships, even in railway trains. And then there are the films. 
And both films and radio are permeated, almost overloaded, 
with improving doctrine, with what the Russians refer to 
enthusiastically as educational matter, and Augustus with 
equal enthusiasm refers to as poison. And of course there 
are the schools. In these, naturally enough, Q>mmunism, 
the established form of government, is deliberately and 
systematically taught, much in the same way as the excel 
lence of the British Constitution is taught in English schools. 
Augustus does not regard this latter form of teaching as 
poison. But probably the Communists do. 

Well, there it is, all this elaborate apparatus of mass- 
suggestion, thousand-throated, persistent, enormous, per 
ceptible even from far-off outside lands, a vast continuous 
murmur of evangelisation that fills all the air for thousands 
and thousands of miles, across two continents, from almost 
the borders of Germany to China and the Pacific seas. What 
does it all amount to? At least it is pretty safe to say that 
nothing else quite like it, nothing on the same scale, has 
ever happened in the world before. There is surely no such 

177 M 

This Russian Business 

tremendous effort of proselytism to be found in all history. 
One great movement does perhaps approach it, the far-flung 
missionary activity of the militant Church in the first nine 
centuries of the Christian era. But though the territorial 
scale is more or less comparable, the intensity of the energy 
expended will stand no comparison at all. For the earth has 
grown populous since then, and even under Gregory the 
Great all Christendom can hardly have held half the numbers 
that are now missionised from Moscow, something like a 
hundred and sixty millions of men. The unit of evangelisa 
tion, obviously, is not so many square miles of country; 
it is so many thousands of human beings. And even the 
matter of numbers is a small thing by comparison; the real 
contrast is in the matter of time. What real success the 
Russian missionary effort may have it is too early to judge. 
But what they purpose doing is clear enough, even what 
they must do, if the whole business is to be worth the doing 
at all. Their object is to complete this process of indoctrina 
tion, to convert Russia to Socialism, within the space of a 
few short years. The critical years of the regime will 
obviously be the next five or ten; if it survives those, its 
foundations will be too firmly set for any easy or sudden 
overthrow. And if, as its enemies say, it is incapable of 
surviving, the same space of time will probably make that 
fact manifest, after the results of the Five Years Plan become 
visible in a certain perspective. For just that ticklish period 
Bolshevism stands far more urgently in need of popular 
support, of doctrinal fervour and mass enthusiasm, than 
it ever will in the future, admitting that there is a future for 
it to inherit. And one has to remember that popular 
enthusiasm for the regime is needed not only to oil the 
wheels of the Five Years Plan, to bear the weight of recon 
struction and industrialisation, but also to meet the possi 
bility of warlike aggression. If the much-dreaded peril of 


The Last Word Wins 

intervention ever becomes a reality, it will be within those 
same few years; in ten years time Soviet Russia will either 
have collapsed under its own weight, or will be far too 
strong for any earthly power to attack. 

So the propagandist effort, like the plans for industrialisa 
tion, takes on a factitious urgency; it has an immediate as 
well as a remoter justification, and its feverish intensity as 
well as its enormous scope is dictated in a certain measure 
by fear, the strongest of all human motives. 

The propaganda and the censorship are opposite sides 
of the same shield; in a Machiavellian sense, perhaps, the 
one implies the other. If you have a doctrine to preach, it 
is obviously an advantage if you can silence competing 
voices ; but to put others to silence is as perilous as it is 
simple, when the persecuting power has no doctrine of its 
own, or when it has one, but neglects to expound it. This 
was the error which almost ruined Catholicism at the 
Reformation; the censorship, the persecution, the negative 
method broke down, and Luther s doctrine almost flooded 
the Church; it was not till the counter-Reformation and 
the preaching of the Jesuits that the endangered cause of 
Rome rallied, saved itself from disaster, and eventually in 
a considerable measure triumphed. And in these days the 
capitalist cause is clearly in that same perilous situation. 
Its defensive effort is almost wholly of a purely negative 
kind, and this for obvious reasons. It is easy enough to stop 
propaganda at the frontiers ; it is less easy, but still prac 
ticable enough, to put down domestic propaganda, to 
engross the instruments of publicity, to keep tendencious 
news out of the papers, to prohibit meetings, to arrest 
Communist leaders, and so on. But when it comes to putting 
something in the place of the censored preaching, it is a 
horse of another colour. Propaganda of a sort there is in 
plenty, both in the newspapers and out of them: anti- 

This Russian Business 

Russian propaganda, anti-Communist propaganda, anti- 
Labour, anti-Socialist propaganda. But of course that is 
precisely the weakness of all this spate of writing and 
talking; it is all anti-something or other. At its best it is 
a destructive criticism of Socialist doctrine ; at its worse (and 
most of it is of the worser kind) it is a stupid and tedious 
argumentum ad bominem : Socialists are fanatics, Socialists are 
corrupt and dishonest, Socialists take their orders from 
Moscow, the Russian Government are a gang of scoundrels, 
the Bolsheviks are all Jews, the Bolsheviks are guilty of 
atrocities, the Bolsheviks are tyrants, Russia is worked by 
forced labour, Russians are slaves. No doubt it is all effective 
enough up to a certain point, but sooner or later the 
saturation point is reached, the point where the patient 
and passive propagandist turns round and says, "Yes, I 
think I have grasped that. The Russians are all wrong. 
Communism is wicked, Socialism is nonsense. That s that. 
But what are jwr proposals? There is a thing they call a 
world crisis. We are all in a pretty bad way. What are you 
going to do about it? What is your gospel?" Of course the 
difficulty is that we have no gospel at all, except perhaps a 
pious belief that everything will come all right sooner or 
later, if people will be sufficiently patient. But the whole 
trouble is that that same patience has been appealed to 
rather too much, and is now getting a little frayed. 

In one country of course there is (with a most strict 
censorship) some attempt at a real positive counter-propa 
ganda, in Italy, to wit. And Italy is the one country of the 
West in which anti-Russian propaganda of the kind with 
which we are familiar practically does not exist, except for 
very occasional newspaper articles. The Italian Press is 
full of the virtues and glories of Fascism, its great works, 
its spiritual triumphs, its spirit of discipline, the "vibrant," 
the "moving," the "delirious" enthusiasm of the crowds 


The Last Word Wins 

in the piazzas for the Duce, for the Fascio, for the Lictorium, 
for every abstract symbol of the regime, for every passing 
event, for every suitable occasion when the ideal crowd 
might be expected to manifest emotion of the kind a 
paternal government can approve. It may be too good to 
be true, but at least, if it were true, it would be to the point. 
At least you do hear about Rome, and not about Moscow. 
Yet perhaps the Fascists lose on the roundabouts what 
they make on the swings ; for they, no more than any other 
form of reaction, have any positive gospel to preach, any 
saving word which can promise the common people a real 
alleviation of their burdens, a life more agreeable to human 
dignity. As their Liberal opponents were fond of saying 
once, "Non c* & dottrina," they have no doctrine, forgetting 
that they themselves were in like case. One doctrine of 
course they have, these imitators of Imperial Rome; it is 
the doctrine of imperial expansion, the axiom that the 
eagles never fly backwards. It is terribly perilous, it leads 
fatally on to slaughter, it will drench Europe in blood 
again before twenty years are out, if the regime lasts. But 
in the meantime it does give all this shouting and blather 
skite that touch of reality which, in spite of everything, sets 
it in a class above the stupid recrimination, the paltry calling 
of names, which is all the propaganda that the reaction in 
France and England can think of. 

Yet there was a time, at least in England, when the cause 
of capitalism was capable of positive enthusiasm, when free 
trade and machinery and laissez-faire and Trade and Thrift 
and Progress were still capable of raising a cheer for their 
own sakes. But of course that was the hey-day of the 
industrial revolution, and the whole point of that passing 
enthusiasm was that it was a revolutionary enthusiasm. It 
was clear that old things were being swept away; the new 
things were as yet unknown, and their apostles promised 


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heaven and earth, as apostles will. Now, unhappily, we 
know better. You can never rake up the ashes of those dead 
fires again. But now, the indefatigable propagandist cries, 
the Bolsheviks do exactly the same; they also promise 
heaven and earth, and their promises are just as false. But 
the retort will not answer. The apostles of change have the 
advantage, as they always must have. It may be that time 
will answer them, but no other voice is deep enough to 
break their spell. It is futile for the high priests of reaction 
to say (and in effect it is exactly what they do say), "We told 
you a fairy-tale once, but we were found out at the last, 
you know us now for false prophets ; if we were not honest, 
how can anyone else be honest? if we were wrong, how 
can anyone else be right? you had better stick to the devil 
you know !" For in times of stress, excitement, and weariness 
this same principle of sticking to the devil one knows is 
very much at a discount. It is the principle which for the 
most part rules the affairs of men, the principle of taking 
the path of least resistance; but it is precisely in these 
moments of crisis and reckless lassitude that such principles 
are thrown overboard. 

One often asks oneself whether in the long run the 
Russian propaganda will succeed succeed, that is in the 
sense of permanently guaranteeing the regime from over 
throw. It is in great measure an idle question, for the other 
circumstances of the case are not known in advance, and 
a hypothesis which should embrace them all could hardly 
keep enough touch with reality to be still interesting. It is 
perhaps less unprofitable to ask whether in the past such 
a propaganda has ever Failed. And by such a propaganda 
I mean a propaganda answering two conditions firstly, 
that it should have, roughly speaking, something like a 
monopoly of the field, and secondly, that it should in itself 
have a strong positive content, something definite to offer 


The Last Word Wins 

which it can keep on offering, some value and attraction on 
the face of it for large masses of men. Given such a 
propaganda, and given also that no enormous political or 
physical catastrophe lays upon the Government burdens 
of popular disfavour not strictly its own, given that the 
level of material and moral welfare does not at any time 
sink too sharply below the accustomed level, it seems to 
me that all the known elements of permanency are within 
the control of the ruling power. The most obvious example 
of such a situation is perhaps the history of the Christian 
Church, and in particular of the Catholic Church, from the 
time of Constantine onwards. The Church has always had 
a doctrine, a doctrine possessing in the highest conceivable 
degree what might be called the political values. For it 
offers great things, salvation, eternal life, everlasting joy. 
Nay more, it also threatens great things ; unless you believe, 
you may be damned; according to the generally prevailing 
reading, you must be damned. And these promises and 
threats, because they relate to the future world, are of a 
kind that can never be proved false by any test of experience ; 
it makes no difference to the Faith what corners history 
may turn. Then the Church has always had something like 
a monopoly of propaganda, for long centuries an actual 
monopoly, strengthened with censorships and enforced by 
persecution, heresy hunts, autos-da-fe, and all the physical 
support of the secular arm. And even after Reformations 
and disestablishments and secularisations, the Catholic 
Church especially, and more or less all the sects, have 
retained a virtual and relative monopoly of propaganda in 
their own field, a monopoly the machinery of which has 
not been without deep lessons for secular politicians. The 
Catholic Church still maintains its formal domestic censor 
ship ; all hostile propaganda is on the Index, either by name 
or category, and in the controversy between the Church and 


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its opponents it is mortal sin for the faithful to listen to the 
other side. Not every sect feels strong enough to go as far 
as that. But every single one does its best, and mostly with 
success, to monopolise the instruction of the children born 
within its dominion, to contrive as far as possible that even 
secular teaching shall come only through ecclesiastical 
channels, or at least mixed with doctrinal flavouring. The 
first impressionable years belong to the Church, and it 
would go hard if the growing race could not be turned 
loose upon the world (since needs must in these degenerate 
days that a certain loosing should take place) with so 
strong a twist in the mind that no later propaganda can 
change it. For this early training always provides not merely 
that orthodoxy shall get its story in first, valuable though 
that advantage may be. There is a deeper and more sagacious 
policy still, for the young generation goes forth equipped 
with emotional prejudices strong enough to guarantee, on 
the whole, that they shall not even listen thereafter to any 
rival propaganda, that rival propaganda shall repel, shall 
shock, even terrify them, nay even that they shall hold it 
a duty to resent alien propaganda as an insult, as well as 
avoiding it as perilous and sinful. And then of course the 
new-grown adult is not left naked to a besieging world of 
heresy and infidelity; the voice of orthodoxy is ever at his 
ear, the hand of orthodoxy guides him into what walks 
and resorts will be profitable for his spiritual well-being, 
from Sunday-school picnics to cricket clubs, from Univer 
sity colleges to Christian trade unions and Salvation Army 
bun-shops. The ramifications of this indirect propaganda, 
this machinery for retaining a hold on the adult faithful, 
are infinite in their diversity, and there is not the slightest 
doubt that to an adequate extent they are successful, at any 
rate in the case of the Catholic Church. The other sects can 
claim as a rule only a more qualified success; at the best 


The Last Word Wins 

they hold their own, but in a world of turbulent changes and 
subversive modern ideas even that is something. The proof 
of the pudding is in the eating; after all the centuries and 
in spite of every vicissitude a doctrine in flat contradiction 
with every modern idea, an organisation directly opposed 
to the strong tide of modern tendencies, persists and 
flourishes almost as in the hey-day of its strength. 

It is true that in the Protestant sects there are signs of 
decadence and wavering, of a weakened grip on the 
congregations, a general failure of strength. But this only 
strengthens one s impression that propaganda, monopolistic 
propaganda, is the source of vigour and the principle of life. 
For it is precisely in the Protestant sects that propaganda 
has become slackened, that the monopoly of propaganda, the 
first word and the last word and the word in between, has 
to a considerable extent been lost, and this because of 
desperate weaknesses inherent in Protestant dogma and 
ecclesiastic organisation. For the whole Reformation is 
built upon the fatal principle of liberty, the disastrous right 
of private judgment. Where it is the duty of the common 
man to think for himself, wherever it is once admitted that 
the Church as such is not infallible, the possibility of 
authoritative and exclusive propaganda is irrevocably lost. 
Assiduous ingenuity can still do something, but it is an 
uphill struggle; the forces of disintegration have always the 

A merely secular power, an aristocracy, a plutocracy, can 
never be in quite the same position of impregnable advan 
tage as an infallible Church. But so much is hardly needed 
to maintain (even though somewhat precariously) a general 
prevalence, a practically permanent ascendency, a dominance 
strong and deep enough to ride the waves of vicissitude. 
It will suffice for that, in a general way, if the Government, 
or the ruling class, can keep under its control by far the 


This Russian business 

greatest part of the organs of propaganda, and (in a modern 
State) especially nine-tenths of the Press. Such propaganda 
can never have the highest qualities. It cannot profess to be 
infallible. It cannot promise Heaven or threaten Hell-fire. 
But inferior quality can, with good management, be compen 
sated by sheer quantity sufficiently for all practical purposes. 
Here again the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In 
modern "democratic" states, the present controversy 
between Socialism and what for want of a better word one 
must still call Capitalism is already of long duration. 
Socialism has been active and militant in Europe for 
almost a hundred years ; organised and powerful Socialist 
Parties have existed for many decades, and that in countries 
with parliamentary Governments, even with universal 
suffrage. Yet no Socialist State exists in Europe or out of 
it (except in Russia, where it was established by violent 
revolution) ; nay more, no Socialist Party has ever controlled 
the parliamentary machine in a great State for any appreciable 
time. And yet all this time party has followed party in the 
seats of the mighty, Governments have succeeded each other 
in a steady rhythm, the fickle electorate has never ceased 
to stick up ministries and knock them down again in a 
monotonous game of political ninepins. Why is it that 
amongst all these restless vicissitudes the Socialist Parties 
have always been cast for Cinderella s part, always out in 
the cold, always checking just short of the goal, often on 
the verge of triumph, never once in the full tide of success? 
There are of course various smug answers that did well 
enough for a certain time, but it is too late now for compla 
cency of that sort. It would be hard in these rather cynical 
days to find anyone naive enough to accept the explanation 
that the phenomenon is due to the robust common sense 
of the British (and all other) electors, to the fundamental 
unsoundness of the Socialist doctrine, to the sterling 


The Last Word Wins 

moderation of the British working man (and all other 
working men) and so on. It is not only that these explana 
tions beg the question. Far more immediately to the point 
is the obvious fact that doctrines do not need to be sound 
in order to succeed. "Hanging the Kaiser" and "Making 
Germany pay" are not now thought to have been very 
sound doctrines. But they were a thumping success at the 
time. The Socialistic doctrine is on the face of it an excellent 
doctrine from the electoral point of view. It contains 
obvious elements of popularity ; a priori it should be well 
in the running for complete success. Yet it has never once 
succeeded. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this 
persistent failure is due purely and simply to the practical 
monopoly of the organs of publicity by what are called 
in Germany "the bourgeois parties/ by the political forces 
which enjoy in various degrees the support, whether willing 
or grudging, of one section or another of the moneyed 
classes. The existence of such a practical monopoly is too 
obvious to require illustration. Nor is it an accidental or 
temporary phenomenon. So long as the Press is the subject 
of private property (and nothing is more morally certain 
than that it always will be that) an overwhelming propor 
tion of it must necessarily be controlled by the propertied 
classes, controlled both directly through actual ownership 
and indirectly through advertisements. A political party 
which represents the labouring masses, the dispossessed, the 
have-nots, cannot, by definition, have at its disposal a large 
fraction of the newspapers, any more than it can own most 
of the coal-mines or iron-foundries, or have vast possessions 
in landed estate. And whoever has the Press, in a modern 
parliamentary State, has everything. There is no other form 
of propaganda which pours itself into every householder s 
ear seven times a week at breakfast-time. And it goes further 
than that, for every person whom the same householder 


This Russian Business 

talks to from morning to night has already been filled with 
the same gospel at his own breakfast-table. After a few 
years of that kind of thing, there is not much to be done 
with a few speeches in the park or at street-corners, and 
even six or eight weeks* electioneering cannot go very far 
in the other direction, especially as in any case most election 
eering is done through the Press. The side which owns 
twenty newspapers to the other side s one simply must 
win in the long run, unless it commits the most enormous 
tactical mistakes. 

Of course the possession of the means of propaganda is 
not absolutely the last ditch of conservatism. For no system 
of advantages is foolproof; accidents will happen, and it 
may be that by some unlucky turn of events the party of the 
dispossessed may be momentarily in front on a count of 
heads, so as not merely to clothe its leaders with the idle 
paraphernalia of office, but actually (let us say) to place 
them in real control of the House of Commons. It is quite 
clear that all constitutions which are to be at all safe from 
the bourgeois point of view must in some way provide 
against untoward chances of that kind, must have an extra 
line of defence to secure the ruling classes against the effects 
of such a breakdown of the electoral machinery. This 
precaution has almost everywhere been taken, the extra 
line of defence, the emergency expedient, does exist in one 
form or another. A single election is nowhere sufficient to 
give unfettered power to any popular party, and two or 
three in succession is a moral impossibility; for that gives 
time for the machinery of propaganda to be overhauled and 
got going again; it can hardly fail twice. Experience has 
verified that course of events with steady consistency, 
especially in the newer countries, where the emergency 
situation more easily arises, and it is hardly rash to say that 
no other result is to be looked for in any future case. Labour 


The Last Word Wins 

Parties, Socialist Parties may briefly hold the power of the 
State in a Capitalist country, conceivably even in the 
conservative and traditionalist States of Europe, but their 
position must always be unstable; the fact that the party 
of reaction still controls the Press definitely ensures the 
impermanence of popular power. 

If there were really any such thing as a democratic 
country, the position might be different. It is conceivable 
that in such a country the working-class party once in 
power even for a brief period might by constitutional 
means bridle the power of the hostile Press, and so more or 
less equalise the odds ; they might for instance compel by 
legislation the printing of their own case, and their own 
version of the news, in parallel columns, and so on. Or they 
might perhaps get the whole, or the most part, of their 
programme enacted into law, during the life of a single 
Parliament. But no such thing can ever happen, for here 
they encounter the second line of defence, which consists 
in the fact that in so-called democratic countries the 
democratic form of the representative institutions is always 
superficial and illusory. There is always a catch somewhere, 
always some constitutional obstacle in the background 
sufficient to make a victory of the popular party the mere 
simulacrum of victory. As a rule it is a second chamber of 
the legislature. Or else there is a federal form of government, 
with second chambers to boot. Or there may be an executive 
veto on legislation. And finally the United States (not to 
mention the Commonwealth of Australia) have evolved 
a very remarkable system which really amounts (in certain 
important classes of cases) to the vesting of a political veto 
in the Supreme Court of Judicature. In England of course 
it is the House of Lords, which even now can hold up 
anything and everything for two long years two years of 
intense Press propaganda, two years in which the life of a 


This Russian Business 

Parliament may run out, two years of Intrigue during which 
anything may be bought and sold. And then in the ultimate 
background, there is, whatever unknown power may still 
reside in the half-disused machinery of the royal prerogative, 
machinery commonly supposed to be hopelessly rusted, 
but which a careful conservatism has always refrained from 
dismantling, surely in the fond expectation that at some 
moment of grave emergency it still might serve a turn. In 
France there is a Senate, in some ways a more logical and 
efficient organ of reaction even than the House of Lords. 
Germany and the United States are federations, and so are 
Canada, Australia, and South Africa, Austria and Switzer 
land, Mexico and Brazil. It was perhaps the Holy Roman 
Empire which really started federalism, and which provided 
the earliest and most complete instance (to date) of its 
inevitable breakdown. Most of the federations are too new 
to have demonstrated how unworkable they are. Switzerland 
is an exception, Canada is partly an exception; these two 
Governments show no tendency to break down. But 
Switzerland is too small, and besides, in Switzerland there 
is a third power above all, the popular initiative and 
referendum, which represents an enormous inroad of real 
democracy into the parliamentary sham-fighting. And 
Canada is only a federation in name, for the Provinces are 
not sovereign States, as they are in Germany and America 
(not to mention Australia). In both Germany and America, 
especially America, the federal system, considered as an 
engine of obstruction, is almost perfect. By and large, no 
sweeping change can ever be made, lawfully, except by 
the simultaneous consent of the federal legislature and the 
local legislatures, a thing morally impossible, and in any 
case normally requiring the lapse of some years for a number 
of elections to different chambers to take place at different 
fixed periods. And to make all sure, in both of these great 


The Last Word Wins 

federations both the national and the local legislatures have 
a second chamber, with a vested right to put a spoke in any 
wheel which shows any tendency to revolve in the wrong 
direction. It would be tedious to go through the catalogue 
of constitutional States, but in all, or practically all, of 
those that pretend to be democracies there is the same 
tremendous loading of the odds in favour of conservatism 
and reaction, the same elaborately designed machinery 
(though of a hundred ingenious types) for ensuring that 
nothing the popular party wants done shall ever be done, 
except upon conditions which are humanly impossible. It 
is a game of head I win, tails you lose. 

Of course not every "democratic" parliamentary constitu 
tion is equally efficient for the purpose of defeating 
democracy, but the point is that all of them are efficient 
enough for any ordinary kind of emergency. In some of 
them of course security is piled upon security. An Upper 
House may be either appointed by the executive power as 
in Engknd and many English Dominion parliaments, or 
it may be elected on a restricted property franchise, or by 
some cumbrous indirect machinery. In the first ckss of 
cases the guarantee of immobility is not quite absolute. 
Logically, theoretically, the party of change might win even 
against all probability, even perhaps where a federal system 
exists. It might keep on winning election after election 
until every representative body that had any say in the 
matter was of its own mind; it might swamp the House of 
Lords, or the Colonial Upper Houses, by a series of new 
appointments whenever any important measure was to be 
passed, and as often as the appointees changed their coats 
between one vote and the next. Of course in British Domin 
ions where the second chamber is elected on a property 
franchise, not even this logical possibility exists. But one 
can hardly cumber the argument with details so absurd as 


This Russian "Business 

the constitution of British Dominions. Suppose, then, that 
in some more normal home of "democracy" this theoretical 
possibility miraculously translates itself into reality (miracu 
lously, because apart from the mathematical odds against 
it and the human instability of electorates, there is naturally 
an organised and venomous Press campaign going on all 
this time), but suppose it does happen, has reaction then 
said its kst word? Not yet. If the miracle happens, and the 
editorials of the Fourth Estate fail to stem the tide of 
proletarian unanimity, there is still the Fifth Estate. There 
is the National Debt. The open direct intervention of 
international finance in domestic politics is in some ways 
a desperate expedient, but recent history has shown that 
it is a risk which the holders of the purse-strings are prepared 
to take when all else fails. And surely we have also discovered 
that the risk, the unsettling effect, the indignation aroused 
in the general population by this dramatic stripping off of 
the velvet glove, this open resolute abandonment of the 
fiction of popular sovereignty, is nothing like so great 
as more timorous generations of the uncrowned kings of 
Europe had fondly supposed. Now they know better* 
Ce tfest que k premier pas qui coute. We shall have plenty of 
it later on. 

But even if formal constitutions bar the way to change, 
even if the financial god from the machine can be invoked 
in the kst resort, the fact remains that neither of these 
expedients can be relied on for ordinary use. They can 
take the weight of a sudden emergency, but their strength 
lies in the fact that their existence is not generally realised; 
they will not do for the heat and burden of workaday 
politics. The substantial reliance must always be pkced on 
propaganda; it is the function of propaganda to keep 
covered as far as possible the naked reality of power, and 
to manage ninety-nine times out of a hundred to do, 


The Last Word Wins 

because the people wish it, the thing which will in fact be 
done whether the people wish it or not. For of course 
nothing is clearer than this, that the very same thing which 
can easily be done once in a hundred times could never 
have the slightest chance of success if it had to be done 
fifty times out of a hundred. When all is said and done the 
people are the ultimate source of power; all strength bases 
itself at kst on human will and human passion; flesh and 
blood has the kst word. The machinery of statecraft may 
be technically perfect, but it is brittle, it cannot be otherwise. 
It will only stand a certain strain, an occasional sharp 
stress; if the people press too hard it will give way. 
Propaganda ensures that the maximum strain shall never 
be exceeded; Press propaganda especially is the true 
"opium of the people," and so far it has always proved 
more than equal to the demands made upon it. 

But if propaganda is so effective a means of government, 
not only where (as in the Catholic Church) it is exercised 
by a centralised authority vested with peculiar advantages 
for securing trust and obedience, but also when employed 
by the governing classes in the comparatively difficult 
conditions of modern parliamentary democracies, it seems 
clear a priori that at least an equal success may be reasonably 
expected from its steady use in Russia, where the conditions 
are in some respects much more favourable than in Western 
countries. Of course from the Russian point of view, from 
the Socialist point of view, that propaganda will succeed, 
above all, because it is true, because it corresponds to deep 
realities. That is a controversy too vast to be entered upon 
here; it is, in fact, the whole issue now at stake. Most of 
us have our own opinion one way or the other, and we 
may as well acknowledge honestly that it is an opinion 
based far more upon emotional elements in a word, upon 
faith, than upon any arm-chair reasonings. Nor will we be 
so shallow or self-compkcent as to regret that this should 

193 N 

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be so. The last word ought to lie with reason, and that is 
a principle worth fighting for when the hour strikes. But 
now that hour has gone by, or is not yet come. We live in 
a dynamic period; it is the time for action and struggle; 
the battle is already joined. On both sides this is the hour 
for execution, and for carrying out, with such enthusiasm 
and fortitude as may be in us, resolutions already taken at 
the stage when reflection was in season. That stage will 
come again when the smoke clears away, but for this present 
the function of thinking is a passive one, and is concerned 
with the examination of events rather than with influencing 

From this point of view it is worth while to consider 
that if the Russian propaganda is true, its success will be 
all the more assured by certain occasional and incidental 
advantages, and that because of those same advantages, 
even if it is not true, it may nevertheless succeed. The 
Soviet power has a monopoly (for practical purposes) of 
all positive propaganda. It has also (what no Western State 
except Italy and a minor dictatorship or two has) a complete 
external and internal censorship. It has a positive doctrine 
to preach, one which makes large promises extremely to 
the point, and one which, having never yet been put to the 
test, has never yet been proved false. And lastly, it is 
assisted by the very political isolation of Russia, an asset 
forced into its hands by the angry hostility of all the 
capitalist governments. It is this isolation which in practice 
places at the disposal of Soviet internal propaganda all the 
emotions aroused by the defence of the fatherknd against 
a threatened invasion of foreign enemies, and strangely 
combines for the purpose in hand the fervour appropriate 
to two doctrines diametrically opposed one to the other, 
making willing and strenuous yoke-fellows of national 
patriotism and international Socialism. It will take a great 
deal of bungling to fail, with all these odds to the good. 


Politics and Terrorism 

i REMEMBER ONCE in Moscow listening to a quite frivolous 
conversation between three of our tourists, more or less 
as follows : "I m disappointed about the Ogpu," said the 
School Teacher. "What is the Ogpu?" asked a flippant 
young man. With a gesture expressive of patient suffering, 
the School Teacher appealed simultaneously to Augustus 
and to the listening heavens. "What are you to do with 
a man who doesn t know about the Ogpu? Don t you ever 
read the London newspapers?" "What I read," replied 
the FHppant Young Man, "is between myself and my 
Maker. I can t prevent Him looking over my shoulder, 
but nobody else shall, not even you. But all this doesn t 
tell me what the Ogpu is." "It s the secret service,, of 
course," said Augustus. "Sort of political C.I.D. Shadows 
suspects, and that kind of thing." "That s what Fm com 
plaining about," said the School Teacher. "I was assured 
that every foreigner in Russia was dogged by an agent of 
the Ogpu wherever he went. I was quite thrilled. It seemed 
so dangerous and romantic. It s one of the things that 
induced me to come. And I ve never once laid eyes on 
anybody that even looked like an Ogpu agent!" "Don t be 
silly I" said the F.Y.M. "Obviously, if an Ogpu agent 
looked like an Ogpu agent, he would be sacked at once. 
The secret police are much more subtle than that. I read 
William Le Queux and Edgar Wallace, even if I don t 
read the newspapers. In the last chapter, the secret agent 
always turns out to be some fellow you didn t suspect 
at all. The chap you thought was the Duke, or the portly 
butler. How do you know Augustus isn t an Ogpu agent? 


This Russian Business 

Or me?" But Augustus had began to glower. "It isn t 
quite so much of a joke as all that," he said firmly. "It s 
well known that all foreigners are more or less under 
surveillance." "Surveillance 1" cried the F.Y.M. excitedly. 
"That s the word I was trying to think of. In one of Edgar 

Wallace s stories " But Augustus s deep bass voice 

overbore him. "As I was saying, they have a very fully 
developed system of espionage. It s well known. It s not 
only in Russk. They have their men in every country in 
Europe. They have kidnapped men in Paris, and arranged 
assassinations in Hungary. . . ." 

There was a good deal more to it, and I don t think 
any very definite conclusion was ever reached. It is a 
tattered argument, and we have all listened to a hundred 
such conversations. But sooner or kter there crops up in 
nearly all of them one rather curious fact which I hardly 
know how to explain, namely, that all the more exotic and 
sensational stories about the Ogpu and the Cheka are 
somehow much easier to treat seriously when one is not 
actually in Russia. In Russia it requires a dead lift of the 
mind, an effort of the critical intellect, to realise that every 
one of those stories might after all be true. Somehow 
or other, the atmosphere is all wrong. The stage is not 
properly lighted. There is, to the ordinary tourist, an air 
of obstinate normality everywhere which makes it very 
difficult to conjure up in any vivid way the silent, deadly, 
and yet somewhat theatrical activities of a ubiquitous 
secret service. I do not pretend to deny those activities, 
nor to cast doubt on any single instance of their exercise 
which anybody has ever alleged that he knows of. It is 
sufficiently obvious that no casual visitor is any better 
qualified, on the strength of his own observations, either to 
deny or confirm such reports than he was before he ever 
set foot on Russian soil. I only remark, with perhaps a 


Politics and Terrorism 

somewhat naive surprise, on the psychological fact that 
in my experience, and evidently in that of a number of 
other people, the favourable atmosphere for the absorption 
of such narratives is the atmosphere of England, and not 
the atmosphere of the land where the scene of the narrative 
is kid.- 1 say "naive" rather shamefacedly, because it occurs 
to me that I ought to have foreseen this. Of course one hardly 
expected in any case to see political suspects being taken 
by the throat in the Nevsky Prospect, or police perquisi 
tions being carried out while the town crier drew the 
popukce to the spot. That was hardly the point. It was 
not so much that one failed to find in Russia a strained 
and abnormal atmosphere, which probably in any event 
a mere visitor never would have found, however real and 
intense it might be. It was rather that after being for a 
little time out of Engknd, and out of Western Europe, 
out of reach of newspapers and so on, one began to realise 
the existence of an element of strain and abnormality in 
the atmosphere one had been living in, and breathing, in 
Engknd itself. For on this subject the common atmosphere 
in Western Europe obviously does still contain a certain 
element of artificiality, of strain and excitability. There is 
not perhaps in these days the same definitely hysterical 
frame of mind to be observed which was so common 
some years back, a frame of mind evidently comparable 
with the attitude of the British public to German atrocities 
during the war. This kst atmosphere of course has definitely 
vanished, melted away into the thinner surrounding air 
which men breathe when their pulses follow a normal 
rhythm. It would not be the slightest use in this year of 
grace to represent the Germans as a nation of bloody and 
Satanic maniacs, whose principal diversions were tearing 
babies to pieces and outraging the women of conquered 
territories. The market for such stories slumped heavily 

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a year or two after the peace; now it practically does not 
exist at all, and we are even rather inclined to deprecate 
the suggestion that there ever was such a market. 

In these days of easy communications, popular education, 
and complicated international relationships it has become 
quite out of the question to keep mass hatred and sus 
picion at quite so frantic a pitch for an indefinite period. 
In the Middle Ages it could be done. The Jews continued 
to eat Christian babies for many hundreds of years, and 
just precisely in Russia they appear to have continued the 
horrid practice right up to the Revolution, if pogroms are 
any guide. And the Moslems also kept on being wicked 
enough to justify Crusades for at least a couple of centuries. 
But those times are past beyond recall. The same spirit can 
still be roused, but it has become a costly and rather 
difficult business. It needs some great convulsion of the 
human spirit, a war or a revolution, and even then it never 
much outlives its causes. It has its hey-day and its decline, 
and the decline is inevitable; once it is fairly under way 
it is practically impossible to stop it; the cycle must take 
its course. Now the wave of popular faith in Russian 
atrocities is, as I judge, already somewhat past its crest. 
The air is still thick with intense suspicion, but there are 
some signs of clearing, and in a few years time we shall 
probably hear no more of the Cheka than we do of the 
angels of Mons or the corpse factory in the Rhineland. 
For that very reason it is not without profit to turn our 
eyes upon this receding tide before it ebbs beyond common 
sight and ordinary memory, and to curiously observe the 
extent of its flooding while the marks are yet wet upon 
the shore. 

If there is one thing dear from the history of all these 
periods of hatred and credulity, it is that the extent to 
which the minds of men are inflamed, and the dynamic 


Politics and Terrorism 

nature of the conviction which then steeps and possesses 
the spirit of great multitudes of people, bears practically 
no relation whatever to the objective truth, or even the 
objective plausibility, of the concrete allegations on which 
this vast and vague indignation is ultimately based. What 
might be called the machinery of conviction, the process 
by which the multitudes are persuaded, is exactly the same 
where evidential facts are scarce, and where they litter the 
ground like autumn leaves. In a case where only the prose 
cutor is to be heard, any honest jury will always give a 
verdict against the accused unless the prosecutor makes 
an awful mess of his case; especially if it is one of those 
cases (by no means uncommon ones) where, as a result of 
undue police publicity beforehand, the minds of the jury 
men are practically made up before they hear any evidence 
at all. 

So in this contemporary case of Russkn atrocities, if all 
these stories find in England and elsewhere a ready recep 
tion and an indiscriminate acceptance, it is not because 
they are true or because they bear any of the marks of 
truth, though I say again that as far as I know every single 
one of them may be literally true down to the last desperate 
detail. Thek truth is almost wholly irrelevant. They are 
received and embraced simply because of the existence in 
England for now almost fifteen years of an emotional 
propaganda so persistent and pervasive, so steeping and 
colouring the minds of all of us (and sometimes even of 
those responsible for the propaganda) that practically any 
story of Bolshevik wickedness, however manifestly absurd, 
can get some sort of acceptance, and all the more plausible 
and better constructed stories would still be sure of wide 
and immediate credence, even though every single word of 
them were false. 

. It is no great wonder if a minority of English people, 


This Russian Business 

in full reaction against this boundless indiscriminate 
credulity, have gone to the other extreme, and refuse to 
believe anything whatever to the disadvantage of Russia 
which is reported in the Press. But of course that attitude, 
though natural, is just as emotional as the other. The fact 
remains that all these stories may after all be true; an 
uneasy doubt persists below the surface, and wherever the 
exaltation of implicit faith has once faltered, there generally 
sets in at kst a certain lassitude and kck of interest, a kind 
of intellectual listlessness, a refusal to bother about any 
body else s politics, or even about one s own. Which, of 
course, is an extremely perilous state of mind, if krge 
masses of the popuktion get into it. It is, in fact, the disease 
of which most democracies have died. Such a condition 
of weariness and disillusion is precisely what enabled the 
sixpenny Napoleons of post-war Europe to overthrow 
constitutions and set up their somewhat theatrical dictator 
ships, one after another, in so many of the smaller states, 
as well as in one great one. In Italy the dictatorship has 
taken some sort of root; in Greece and Spain it has already 
given way to a new revolution; in Poknd, Hungary, and 
Jugoskvia it still drags out a fitful and feverish existence. 
In one form or another the epidemic intermittently 
threatens the greater part of Europe. In England no such 
overturn can ever take pkce, but this, as we all know, is 
due exclusively to the superior stability of British institu 
tions and the sterling common sense of the English people. 
Still, even here the spirit of discouragement and political 
agnosticism spreads ap^ce, and next to our own domestic 
disillusionments one of the most remarkable minor causes, 
or symptoms, is the extreme disinterestedness affected by 
the small but growing ckss of people who were formerly 
rather emotional about Russia (as they had been about 
Germany some years before) but who, having now sobered 


Politics and Terrorism 

down, are suffering from a kind of political headache, and 
are inclined to wish they had not so easily given themselves 

But after all, what are we to do about it? If we dis 
cover that we have been living in an atmosphere of emo 
tional humbug, surely we are entitled to indulge ourselves 
in a little human disgust, and to take the easiest course to 
prevent ourselves being humbugged any more. The trouble 
is that any other course requkes a great deal of effort, and 
perhaps is even really impossible. No doubt we ought to 
examine critically what we used to swallow whole, and try 
to discern on some reasonable grounds what is genuine 
and what is, to use the homely vernacular, faked. But it is 
not so easy. There is a tremendous mass of stories and 
reports of one sort or another, tales of spying, kidnapping, 
hairbreadth escapes, assassinations, secret trials, exiles in 
Siberia, dungeons, executions, and what not. I do not 
mean the cases, numerous enough in all conscience, of 
officially admitted executions for treason. It is not from 
these that most of the atrocity atmosphere arises, but rather 
from the suggestion of other violences far more extensive 
and at least partly secret. It is here that the main difficulty 
arises. Between the utmost that a pro-Bolshevik will admit, 
and the least that an anti-Bolshevik will be contented to 
affirm, there lies almost the whole bulk of these allegations. 
Some of it may be sober truth, some of it sheer lying and 
deliberate invention, a good deal of it mere newspaper 
sensationalism, distortion and exaggeration of reports 
originally honest. At present it is quite impossible, even if 
it were necessary, to sort out and sift all this accumulation 
of rumours. It might be possible, with infinite kbour and 
much good fortune, to track down the very truth of this 
or that isolated report. But that will not help us very much. 
It is a question of quantity, of proportion. The essential 


This Russian business 

thing Is the enormous volume of such news, or propaganda, 
or whatever it is, the infinite repetition that creates an 
atmosphere in men s minds, the suggestion that these 
sinister practices are so constant and far-reaching, so much 
the very warp and woof of everyday existence in those 
lands, that all the sky of Russk is darkened by them, 
that all men s lives are clouded by a vast and secret 
apprehension. It is the general picture that we want to 
know about, the picture of a universal reign of terror, 
formerly open and flagrant, and in these kter years perhaps 
more subterranean and secret, but still continuing with 
undiminished force. Is this picture in its main outlines true 
or false? 

To answer such a question off-hand is unfortunately only 
too easy. To refuse to answer it at all, to deny its relevance 
to our own affairs, is still easy enough for certain kinds 
of minds. But to make an honest attempt at a serious 
answer is always a matter of tremendous difficulty for 
contemporary observers. Authentic materials are never 
avaikble in any quantity at all corresponding to the enor 
mous scope of the inquiry. And even if they were available, 
the supply of cool and competent investigators is neces 
sarily so limited that one can almost say that they do not 
exist. As for competence, we might make some sort of 
shift with the very few Western Europeans who, besides 
the other necessary qualifications, speak Russian fluently, 
and have actually lived for three or four years in revolu 
tionary Russk. But coolness is another matter. Impartiality 
is not a common virtue at any time, and in extraordinary 
circumstances like these it not only becomes still less 
common, but it almost ceases to be a virtue. What bloodless 
dissector of the deeds and words of men can really say, 
with his hand upon his heart, that he has neither part nor 
passion in that tremendous drama which now goes forward 

Politics and Terrorism 

in Eastern Europe, and the issue of which may easily 
settle the destiny of all the West, even of the whole world, 
for many centuries to come? Our poor intellects are no 
such engines of steel and crystal ; and the more we recognise 
this elementary fact, the less we flatter ourselves by attri 
buting to our own judgments a miraculous insight which 
they are far from being endowed with, the easier it will 
be to admit that certain questions must remain open for 
a considerable time to come. It is not necessary to say there 
is no answer, or to pettishly turn away our faces and refuse 
to bother. But it is no use either hoping to be certain, or 
insisting upon being dogmatic (a very different frame of 
mind), on a matter which none of us is qualified to judge 
impartially, and which does not He open to our gaze even 
if we were impartial. Whether this atmosphere created by 
thousand-voiced rumour really reflects the face of Russia, 
or whether, on the whole, it is a mirage projected on the 
clouds by the insane imaginations of Western propagandists, 
is and will long be a doubtful question, an unsolved problem, 
a knot which any fool can cut, but which nothing but time 
can unloose. Such a position neither flatters our vanity nor 
satisfies our curiosity, but we had better make up our 
minds to it, unless we are content to be the conscious or 
unconscious victims of political charlatanry. No doubt on 
some far distant day History will lift its nose out of the 
dust and calmly tell posterity the truth; but you and I will 
be none the wiser for that. In the meantime it is clearly 
a case, not for disinterestedness, but for suspended judg 
ment, that most difficult of all the exercises of the mind. 
Guessing at the truth, taking a chance, is well enough 
where you are under an obligation to act. If you are im 
periously called on to do something, to make a practical 
decision, you must come to some conclusion about the 
facts, and you must do it at once, however unsatisfactory 


This Russian Business 

your material may be. Even if you have to toss up, you 
have fifty chances out of a hundred of being right, and 
obviously you ought to toss up. But we are not in that 
position. After all, it is not our business, not in the sense 
that we are called on to go out and knock somebody on the 
head about it. We are not our brothers keepers to that 
extent; we live (at least since 1920) in a more matter-of-fact 
world ; most of us are agreed that we will not again violently 
interfere in the party quarrels of other nations, if we can 
help it. That position may be morally indefensible, but 
politically it is justified by overwhelming motives of 
expediency; it is the indispensable condition of inter 
national stability. The Russians, on the other hand, are 
bound to take these decisions, and for that purpose to 
form definite opinions; but they at least are on the spot; 
and if they are bound to be even more passionate and 
partisan than we are, at least they cannot be quite as 
ignorant. It is true that in the long run their cause is our 
cause. One of their parties must be right, one of them 
ought to prevail; and when to-morrow the same con 
troversy becomes urgent in our own country, it is probable 
enough that their experience will go far to turn the scale. 
In other words, the Russian people, while engaged about 
their own affairs, are no doubt in a sense picking chestnuts 
out of the fire for us. It may be selfish to let them burn 
their fingers by themselves, but mankind has lived for a 
good many centuries at about that level of egotism, and is 
likely to keep on with it for some time yet. Besides, we are 
never explicitly called on to quarrel with the Russkns 
because of their politics, but only because of the nasty 
way they (as it is alleged) carry on the dispute. If we were 
plainly asked to help the Bolsheviks because Communism 
is a good thing, or to subsidise a counter-revolution because 
Communism is a bad thing, there would be some kind of 


Politics and Terrorism 

sense in it. But to be asked to condemn, or perhaps even 
to attack, one of the parties because it is not pkying fair, 
because it hits the other party too hard, or hits below the 
belt, is (to descend to the vernacular) coming it a bit too 
thick. It is not for decisions as gratuitous as that that the 
device of tossing-up was invented. 

Terror as a political weapon is of course no new thing 
in history, although it was left for the vicissitudes of the 
Russian upheaval, with its Red Terrors and White Terrors, 
to render necessary a distinctive nomenclature rather 
suggesting the Wars of the Roses. It is of course the same 
principle, in essence, which underlies most criminal legisla 
tion in all ages. You punish a robber or a murderer, not 
solely nor even principally out of revenge, nor because 
punishment may reform him, nor yet merely to teach him 
not to do it again, but chiefly because of the so-called 
deterrent effect on others. And for the sake of this deterrent 
effect you often, if not generally, punish him more severely 
than you would do if the effect upon other possible evil 
doers were absent from your mind. The punishment fits 
partly the particular crime, but partly also the chances of 
crime in general. In this sense justice almost always plays 
to the gallery. And this evidently highly immoral element 
both in criminal legislation and in the discretion exercised 
by judges is justified upon grounds of expediency. Salus 
populi suprema lex. The criminal population must be cowed. 
Depraved consciences can only be reached by fear. 
Reformatories and humanitarianism have their proper 
place and influence, but at a certain point the velvet glove 
must be stripped off. Let kindness do what it can, but at 
the latter end is force, and the public power must be 
resolute to use it, or civilisation falls to pieces. And the 
use of force must be open and resounding enough for all 
wrongdoers or would-be wrongdoers to be conscious of it; 


This Russian Business 

they must feel that punishment, at a certain point, will be 
sure and inexorable; there can be no paltering; it must be 
not only true, but patent, that "the magistrate beareth not 
the sword in vain." 

So much almost all men approve ; upon that our societies 
are built. But we do not always realise that the political 
reign of terror is based upon that very same principle, and 
justifies itself by exactly the same motives of expediency. 
For when a Government proceeds with unusual rigour 
against those who plan its overthrow, or who are suspected 
of such plans, when it resorts to persecution and massacre, 
it obviously does so because it believes its own existence 
to be in danger, and also believes that the spectacle of this 
swift and wholesale retribution will cause other people 
who may have had attacks upon or plots against the Govern 
ment in mind to think better of it. When Power feels itself 
threatened, it makes no account of the motives or morals 
of its enemies; against the criminal and the rebel alike 
it uses the same terrorist weapons. And if nevertheless we 
approve of deterrent criminal legislation, or criminal 
legislation with a deterrent element in it, and at the same 
time disapprove of political terrorism even in moderate 
doses, we are clearly faced with a moral dilemma of some 
considerable proportions. 

For a certain stigma, a certain impression of shamefulness 
and crime, does surely rest, in the mind of the average 
modern man, upon the memory of those who in past days 
were actively concerned in the great political proscriptions 
and reigns of terror. The proscriptions of Marius and 
Sulla, the wholesale political executions of Augustus and 
the triumvirs, the persecution of the Christians, the Albi- 
gensian crusade, the Inquisition, Jef&eys s Bloody Assize, 
the slaughter under the Committee of Public Safety during 
the French Revolution, the ferocious repression of the 1905 


Politics and Terrorism 

rebellion under the Gzars, none of these can be recalled 
by any ordinary person without at least some faint feeling 
of indignation, and if the same cannot yet be said of some 
other reigns of terror in which we ourselves and other 
nations of Western Europe have been more nearly con 
cerned during the last century, the reason is not far to seek. 
For though contemporary indignation may be far more 
intense, it is an obvious truth that the public execration of 
these proscriptions only tends to become universal in 
proportion as the events recede into the past; the only 
atrocities which arouse the horror of all mankind are those 
committed in the course of obsolete controversies. For 
men s consciences are really far more elastic in these matters 
than it appears at first. It is not true that we always abstain 
from violence and cruelty, though it might be to our 
advantage; it is not even true that we compromise, and 
admit, as in the case of criminal repression, a small degree 
of terrorism in order to secure a great advantage, the 
overwhelming advantage of law and order, of public peace 
and a stable civilisation, but that at that point we draw 
the line. It will not do; self-flattery is too easy. We do 
indeed draw the line, but it is not that line. If it is true in 
general that nearly all of us instinctively disapprove of 
political terrorism, and that for these acts we reject the 
justification of expediency, we are obliged to confess that 
our disapproval is of a kind which can be bought off, our 
shrinking from those violences is capable of being com 
pletely numbed by the action of moral anaesthetics. For 
the only expediency we definitely and unanimously reject 
is a dead expediency, an expediency that serves purposes 
and passions which are not our own. Where violence is, 
or seems to be, essential to our own existence, or to the 
existence of any community or cause with which, however 
gratuitously, we have identified ourselves, the most part of 


This Russian Business 

us can always be brought by suitable propaganda to approve 
of violence. If all men condemn the proscriptions of Sulla, 
it is because we care nothing for the preservation of that 
dictatorship; what is Sulla to us? So with the proscriptions 
of the triumvirs, so with the persecution of Christianity ; 
we are not partisans for Octavian and Antony, nor can we 
approve that martyrs should be crucified to vindicate the 
authority of a vanished empire. When it comes to execrating 
the Inquisition and the French Terror, we are not quite so 
unanimous even now; and this is obviously because those 
controversies are not yet dead; the Catholic and the 
republican take, and we find it natural for them to take, 
a considerably milder view of the moral enormity of those 
happenings than the Dutch Lutheran or the royalists of the 
Action Franjaise. The nearer we come to our own times, 
the more acute the controversy, the more generally all of 
us have taken sides, the more doubtful and partial becomes 
the moral indignation aroused by public violence. The 
executions after the Easter rebellion in Ireland, the massacre 
of Amritzar, the military decimation after the mutiny at 
Singapore, these and a dozen other instances out of ex 
tremely modern history have indeed aroused a good deal 
of passionate moral indignation, but it has been almost 
wholly confined to that part of the people who sympathised 
with the politics or religion of the sufferers. Or if some 
quiver of compunction did affect the nerves of the rest of 
the nation, the public conscience was rapidly soothed by 
official explanations and the forgetful passage of time. 
Nor need we suppose that other nations are any better than 
we ; there are even some reasons to think that the colonial 
repressions of France and Italy find a public at home even 
more apathetic than ours. Nor is it only that the scale of 
these occurrences is minimised, for in every such case there 
is to be found an active part of public opinion which not 


Politics and Terrorism 

only fails to condemn, but even squarely supports and 
approves such actions. 

If nevertheless the almost unanimous opinion of man 
kind insists on condemning the political repressions of 
bygone days, this is perhaps not so inconsistent as it seems. 
For the same guiding principle implicitly underlies all 
these judgments. We do not hold a different view of the 
moral undesirability of the acts we condemn and those we 
are disposed to tolerate. It is in the justification that the 
difference lies. We cannot admit the excuse of expediency 
unless we ourselves feel the ends sought to be expedient; 
we agree that at a pinch the material order of things should 
be saved by some sacrifice of the moral order, but only such 
a material order as we ourselves approve of or sympathise 
with. For considerable numbers of us even that is not 
enough. We still disapprove, though more mildly, the 
over-violent self-defence even of historical regimes with 
which we do sympathise; to secure our whole-hearted 
consent to deterrent action of a violent kind the regime 
must be that with which we are ourselves identified. The 
State must be saved at any cost, but only the State on 
which our own existence depends; if former times or 
foreign nations will take the same responsibility on them 
selves, let them look to it; they shall have none of our 
countenance; right is right and wrong is wrong; if our 
own house is in peril, we will do wrong if need be, but we 
will not burden our consciences with erecting that wrong 
into a principle for the sake of strangers. 

The Russian Revolution is so near us not only in time 
but in direct appeal to our passions, that almost the whole 
of the politically minded populations of Europe may be 
said to identify themselves in a considerable degree with 
one or other of the contending parties. The strife of rich 
and poor, the few against the many, the Capitalist order 

209 o 

This Russian Business 

against the Socialist order these are the deepest and most 
real cleavages in every civilised society. Therefore almost 
all of us either affirm and condemn the Red Terror, on the 
one hand, or deny and justify it on the other. Those who 
desire to condemn naturally make the most of the facts, 
or even, as their opponents suggest, conjure up out of the 
void such facts as would lend themselves to condemnation. 
The defensive party, equally naturally, begin by reducing 
the facts to a minimum or denying them altogether, and 
only so far as this effort is judged to have failed do they 
attempt the more complicated task of justification. And 
even then justification is not always a pure discussion of 
principle; it often resolves itself into an argument whether 
the kettle is not blacker than the pot, after all. We hear 
more of the Menshevik terror, the White Terror in Hungary, 
the White Terror in Finland, the slaughter by the Czars, 
the Kolchak atrocities, the deeds of Denikin and Wrangel, 
the murder campaigns against Communist leaders, and the 
misdeeds of the Capitalist West, than of any fair and square 
justification of terror on moral or even political grounds. 
But when the direct defence does come, it rests, as it always 
must rest, on the same deep principle of mere self- 
preservation. The Revolution is in danger, the Revolution 
must be saved ; no other way will save it. As some American 
writer once said: "a Reign of Terror is all right, provided 
it s your own side that s doing it." The wording of that 
statement may be somewhat extravagant, but it is not as 
cynical as it looks, or if it is cynical, then cynicism is an 
ineradicable element of what we have hitherto been pleased 
to call our consciences. For surely the sober opinion of 
almost all mankind boils down to something not so very 

It may be of course that all violence, whatever its motive, 
is wrong, fatally and dreadfully and inevitably wrong, that 


ities and Terrorism 

to impose any forcible constraint on one s fellow-man, and 
still more to take his life, is a thing to be refrained from 
at any cost whatever, and, in short, that violence, however 
small, is a means that no end, however great, can possibly 
justify. And there are pacifists and quietists and non- 
resisters enough who do really and honestly feel like that. 
But the overwhelming majority of mankind surely do not 
take that view. They will not go so far. And the moment 
one refuses to go the whole way, it becomes a mere question 
of proportion between the means and the end. Nearly all 
of us really believe that the end does justify the means. 
And pretty well every man Jack of us will in his heart 
approve of terroristic methods, or any other bloody and 
violent action, as a means to an end, on two conditions. 
The first is that the means must not be too startling or too 
sudden. If our nerves are to be shocked, it must be done by 
homoeopathic doses* For instance, the shooting of Roger 
Casement at the beginning of the last war was a far more 
startling event than the execution of dozens of spies a year 
or two later, though the justification in theory was the same. 
And it is pretty safe to say that the news of the first few 
hundred casualties in the field at the beginning of the war 
made a far deeper impression on the minds of ordinary 
people in England than far more wholesale slaughter 
later on. But of course the main thing is the justification : 
the end must be one of which we approve. And this is 
surely the right principle, and the only right one. When 
once you have made up your mind which course is right 
and which is wrong, the moral complexion of your inter 
mediate acts is necessarily coloured by the direction in 
which you travel: there is no correctness of demeanour 
which will enable you to travel virtuously the primrose path. 
To affect a moral impartiality is absurd, and worse than 
absurd. There is no conceivable attitude so cynical or so 


This Russian Business 

fundamentally and irreclaimably wicked as that which tries 
to be intellectually impartial between good and evil; which 
says that only your acts are to be considered, and not that 
purpose which gives them meaning, and that the only 
thing in the struggle you wage which has no moral im 
portance whatever is the question whether your cause is 
right or wrong. Surely then it is after all true that no 
honest man can possibly justify any violence not com 
mitted by his own side (meaning by that the side he has 
freely chosen, not that to which he was born) and that the 
only question remaining for our honest man to decide is 
whether (though he approves the purpose and the end) 
the means may not still be too costly, or in other words, 
whether the means necessary to affect a certain purpose 
may not defeat some other far greater purpose. That may 
be opportunism; but by that opportunism all men live; 
there is no higher rule upon which any actual activity of 
human kind is based. 

And in spite of all specious defences I am satisfied that 
if Socialism is a vain folly and a mirage on the steppes, then 
every ^man slain by the Bolsheviks must be thought to be 
slain in wantonness and wicked waste, when History at 
length casts up the mournful accounts of that adventure. 
But if the after world judges the accomplished fact, and 
finds that what these men painfully sought to do was 
worth doing, if they succeed, and if their success delivers 
the race of men from enormous evils hitherto suffered 
without any hope, will any ordinary man be then found 
so bold as to say the game was not worth the candle? 
Unless I greatly err, arm-chair criticism would in such 
a case shift its ground, and argue, not that the slaughter 
was wrong in itself, if it had been necessary, but that in 
fact it was not necessary, that the end could have been 
achieved without that. 


Politics and Terrorism 

The most urgent end to be achieved by a revolutionary 
Government is to survive, to get opportunity and elbow 
room, to ensure itself at least a trial, a fair chance to carry 
on the work of building its new world (if worlds can be 
built on any such plan) ; in one word, to save the revolution 
from its enemies. You may have your own private notions 
as to whether the revolution is worth saving, but that is 
a matter you can hardly expect its adherents to waste much 
thought over; they would not be its adherents unless they 
had settled that matter with their consciences long ago. 
So far the Russian Revolution has survived, and seemingly 
grown and prospered. It is obviously hard at work, with 
its coat off and its back bent; but its new world is in the 
building. It is far too early to judge the human worth of its 
achievement, and till we can judge that, it is too early to 
spend much time in criticising the manner or the incidents 
of that building, or in crying shame upon the cost. 


The Use of Force 

WHEN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION with the revolving years 
establishes itself so firmly that the last hope of shaking it 
from its seat is abandoned, or else gives way and goes 
altogether to pieces > thus becoming either respectable enough 
or dead enough for history to be written about it, not the 
least curious chapter will be the story of the evolution and 
metamorphoses of contemporary criticism, especially Press 
criticism. For the last fifteen years Russia has been fairly 
steadily in the limelight, often a subject for the front page 
and double headlines, almost always worth publicity of 
some kind. The news has of course varied in volume from 
time to time, but the comment and criticism have flowed 
in a much steadier stream. In fact, the Revolution may 
fairly be considered a perfect godsend to the Press. But of 
course it had its drawbacks. There were times when the 
matter was too abundant; the vein was too rich. It was 
hard to know what to say, what was the proper line to 
take. Of course one thing was always clear: that the Press, 
or to be more accurate the interests that owned and paid 
the Press, did not like the Revolution. But you cannot keep 
on filling columns and columns for months on end just 
with the bald statement that you do not like this or that 
movement or country. Some decent circumstantiality is 
expected; you must haw a, whole apparatus of arguments 
and reasons ready before the campaign is unleashed. And 
it is not so simple, not where the thing you attack is new 
and comparatively unknown. If you have orders to write 
against, say, the Catholic Church, or the French Republic, 
or the Conservative Party, or Christian Science, or Dar- 


The Use of Force 

winism, it is easy enough. There are certain pretty well 
recognised lines of attack, and if you stick to those you 
cannot go far wrong; it is at least fairly easy to keep from 
contradicting yourself. But where you have to write against 
a brand-new, unknown, half-monstrous thing like a Socialist 
revolution, which changes into a hundred Protean shapes 
and alters its whole complexion before your ink is dry, 
the business becomes far more complicated. Especially as 
the nature of the case requires you to be always cocksure 
of your opinions. When you are on the defensive, you can 
afford to be modest, and to entertain reasonable doubts; 
but when you are leading an offensive campaign you are 
obliged to be positive and slashing all the time. 

The first propaganda against the Russian Government 
almost went as far as to deny its existence. It was not really 
what one could call a Government. There was no order of 
any sort in Russia, and no settled administration, only a 
gang of cut-throats who had temporarily got hold of the 
public power, much as a gang of Chicago bandits might be 
in control of a bank for a few hours. It was not necessary 
to consider the doctrines or pretensions of the Bolsheviks, 
simply because their power was so obviously evanescent, 
an anomaly as absurd as it was dreadful, a tragic and 
ridiculous interlude, which the iron pressure of events 
would displace to-morrow, or the day after at the very 
latest. The European Cabinets would not recognise it even 
as a Government de facto ; it was there as large as life, but 
they ignored it, and secretly organised rebellions against it. 
And when Wrangel captured a town or two in the Ukraine, 
the French Government rashly recognised him and his 
friends as the dejure Government of all the Russias. So far, 
the Press theory about the situation was vindicated by the 
support of the powers that be. 

But as the months and the years went by, and the inter- 


This Russian Business 

vention collapsed, and the Czarist generals scuttled to cover, 
it became painfully clear that this theory was all wrong, 
that there was a Government in Russia past all doubt or 
denial, and a strong Government too, evidently a pretty 
stable Government, as Governments went in those uneasy 
times. The Press took note of these things, and the line of 
attack changed. The leading articles ceased to say "It 
cannot last, it cannot last 1" and almost to leave it at that, 
as they had formerly done. They began to say "It may last, 
more or less, but it can never be a success. The Government 
is a military despotism, and military despotisms may last 
for generations, or for ages. But all the time it lasts the 
people of Russia will live in misery. A Socialist State, 
so-called, may perhaps be maintained indefinitely by force, 
but as Socialism is economically nonsensical and absurd, 
it will be maintained, if at all, in a country permanently on 
a standard of living inhumanly low, and constantly on the 
verge of famine. And even at that of course it won t really 
be Socialism; it isn t even now." 

Then came the obvious growth of economic recon 
struction at a very rapid pace. By the time the Western 
world had realised the unmistakable character of this 
progress, and the fact that, to some extent at least, it already 
gave the lie to those dismal prophecies of misery and want, 
the process began to quicken before their eyes, and suddenly 
pointed towards an incredible climax with the setting forth 
of the Five Years Plan. This was too much. The Plan was 
received with incredulous laughter, as if it were clear that 
the Soviet Government, intoxicated with their first moderate 
successes, had now suddenly gone completely mad. But 
the first year of the Plan went by, while Europe held its 
breath (whenever it chanced to look that way), and then 
the second and third, and now even the fourth, and the 
amazing fact became crystal clear that so far, this enormous 


The Use of Force 

and maniac enterprise was succeeding. Consider what that 
meant. It meant, obviously, that the prophecies were not 
only wrong but silly, that the Socialist order could not only 
produce, but could produce and build, if need be, on a 
scale and at a rate undreamed of in all the history of the 
world up to that time. 

When this startling fact had sunk into the minds of 
Western journalists, there was an immediate halt in the 
propaganda campaign; it became absurd and suicidal to 
continue it on the former lines. Out of many councils of 
war (as one may suppose) there came a complete change 
of the plan of campaign, and new watchwords and slogans 
were hastily brought into use. The new position was this : 
we never doubted that Socialism was practicable (this 
astounding assertion was printed almost textually in the 
London Times\ but it is practicable only on one condition, 
namely, the enslavement of the workers. And these tremen 
dous results that we now admit are being produced in 
Russia are due purely and simply to "forced labour." The 
Socialist worker does produce at a high rate, but he does 
it figuratively, if not literally, under the lash. Now this is 
not only very wrong, but it gives Russian industries an 
unfair advantage, and is bad for trade. We can t afford to 
allow that sort of thing. And gradually the whole mass of 
propaganda swung once rtiore into line, and "forced labour" 
and "dumping" became the twin refrains of the new 

Now it is clear to all honest men that this new order in 
Russia will be justified, or the reverse, according as it lives 
up to, or fails to live up to, two requirements of very 
different kinds. First, it must produce, and more or less 
equitably distribute, a sufficient quantity of material com 
modities, food and clothes and houses and beer and chocolate 
and picture-shows and what not, to provide for the ordinary 


This Russian Business 

Russian a standard of life and comfort at any rate as good 
as he had under the Czars. And to justify itself in any 
worth-while degree it must do very much better than that; 
it must both ensure a far juster distribution of the national 
wealth, and (since Russia under the Czars was a very poor 
country) it must very considerably increase that wealth, 
before the new Russia will stand comparison, not with 
pre-war Russia (that would unhappily be comparatively 
easy), but with the civilised countries of the West. And the 
second requirement is this : that when the period of revolu 
tion and construction is over, and the material prosperity 
of the country is assured, there must be more, and not less, 
real individual liberty than there was before. And here 
again, if things are no better, or not much better, than under 
the Czars, the success achieved will hardly be worth the 
effort. To really justify the Revolution, the ordinary Russian 
must be assured of at least as much liberty as his brother 
in the West. And the Revolution will have achieved only 
a rather questionable kind of success unless the real liberty 
of the members of the Socialist State is very much greater 
than the extremely moderate liberty enjoyed by Western 

It is as yet far too early to judge how far either of these 
ends has been or will be achieved. The period of con 
struction, the stage of tension and strained effort, is not 
yet finished. But assuming for the moment that the society 
to be constructed will eventually ensure a permanent raisino- 
of the standard of life and the standard of liberty, it is still 
a question worth considering how far the process of con 
struction itself necessarily implies a temporary lowering of 
the standard in both those respects. Whether the standard 
actually sinks, in either case, below the pre-war Russian 
standard, or at any rate below the contemporary European 
standard, is a question of fact to be decided (some day) on 


The Use of Force 

positive evidence. But that there should exist a tendency 
to limitation and restriction both of material welfare and 
personal liberty, must surely be acknowledged by all sincere 
minds to be inherent in the very nature of the struggle. 
It is pretty clear that if you try to accumulate a working 
capital out of your ordinary income (which is what the 
Five Years Plan comes to) your income is thereby cut 
down. It may conceivably be expanded at the same time by 
other causes, by economies in working or what not, and 
as a result it may even be that you save up your capital 
without denying yourself any expenditure that you were 
used to. But even in that rather unlikely case the factor of 
restriction is still present and active, though its operation 
may be masked. 

Similarly, if a large community is to hold together for 
a considerable time in some intense co-operative effort, 
this can obviously only be done at the expense of some 
sacrifice of individual liberty by its members during that 
period. And it is equally evident that this sacrifice cannot 
always be left solely to the individual conscience. Society 
may in its origin have been purely voluntary, but as we 
know it in this iron age it always and necessarily contains 
a compulsory element. The duties which the citizen owes 
to the commonwealth are duties which the commonwealth 
will and must enforce, if need be. In one sense, then, all 
co-operative labour is forced labour, as all compliance 
with law or custom is a forced compliance. There is always 
the sanction in the background. The question in any given 
case is how far it comes into the foreground as well. Does 
the latent power require to be exercised in one country or 
epoch more than in another? 

Most of the stuff presented to the English newspaper 
reader about so-called "forced labour" and other forms of 
compulsion in Russia is so obviously mere cant that to 


This Russian Business 

discuss it seriously would be merely beating the air. And 
even of the more serious criticism a certain proportion is 
obviously partly due to a confusion of ideas. It is commonly 
said, for example, that there are prison camps in Siberia, 
where timber is felled and carted by convict labour, and this 
timber (it is assumed) forms part of the timber exported to 
England and elsewhere. It seems likely enough that all this 
is perfectly true. But it is extremely difficult to understand 
why Englishmen are expected to shudder at it. Is it that 
it is considered inhuman to make convicts work? When an 
English judge sentences a criminal to "hard labour" or to 
penal servitude, are those phrases without meaning, or does 
the man really do some work, and even some hard work, 
penal work, labour that really justifies the use of the word 
"servitude"? At any rate the general impression is that he 
does, and that being an English convict is not all beer and 
skittles. But then one hears strange stories of prisoners in 
timber camps who attempted to escape, and were shot down 
by the guards. It seems likely enough. I do not remember 
to have seen in this case any official admissions that such 
things have happened. But surely it is a case of res ipsa 
loquitur, as the lawyers say. If such a thing has never yet 
happened, that is surely a rather remarkable state of affairs, 
and even a very cautious man would probably be prepared 
to wager that if it has not happened, it will. But again, why 
should that rouse us to virtuous indignation? If a convict 
attempts to escape from Dartmoor, or from Sing Sing, 
or from Devil s Island, and a warder sees him, what will 
the warder do? Will he shoot, or not? Are we really expected 
to believe that he will confine himself to saying in a per 
suasive voice, "Now, now, you really mustn t do that"? 

But there is rather more to it than that. The criticisms on 
this head are not all cant. There remains at least one ground 
of objection which has more substance in it. It seems to be 


The Use of Force 

the truth that at least part of those employed in hard labour 
in timber camps and such places are political prisoners, and 
not ordinary criminals. And it is suggested that this putting 
of political prisoners to servile labour is not only a clean 
break with all precedent, but is fundamentally and really 
an injustice and an outrage. 

It is true that in most countries a distinction is observed 
(and was observed still more in the gentler times before the 
war) between the treatment of political and ordinary 
prisoners. But a candid judgment will be obliged to admit 
that there were always very grave limitations to this rule. 
To begin with, the distinction was one absolutely unknown 
to modern English law or to the practice of the English 
government. A prisoner in an English prison is put to 
work, or not, as the judge s sentence runs, but this has 
absolutely nothing to do with whether his crime was 
political or not. Take quite recent examples : on November 
23, 1930, a Communist was sentenced to two years hard 
labour for a purely political offence, and the judge announced 
that he would have sent the prisoner to penal servitude 
but for his youth. A little earlier a swindler who had been 
convicted of a cunning fraud in manipulating the balance- 
sheets of a public company was sentenced to twelve months* 
imprisonment in the first division (without hard labour). 
Nor was there anything in the least unusual or out of the 
way about either of these sentences. So that if it is proper 
to treat political offenders more leniently, we that hold 
that view in England will have to begin by making revolu 
tionary changes in our own law and practice, before we can 
with any decent grace criticise foreign Governments for 
commencing to do exactly what we have always done 

But it may of course be said that two wrongs do not 
make a right. Perhaps it is after all true that we ought to 


This Russian Business 

disapprove both what the Russians do and what we do 
ourselves, and that the only thing wrong with this part of 
the newspaper campaign about "forced labour" is that 
they ought to attack the English Government as well as 
the Russian, and to place Ramsay MacDonald and Baldwin 
in a common dock with Stalin and Molotoff. But it seems 
to me that there are quite enough good reasons for disap 
proving of Messrs. Baldwin and MacDonald without 
dragging in this very questionable ground of accusation. 

After all, why shouldn t a political prisoner work? It 
has always been understood that he is liable to have a far 
worse thing done to him. In the last resort, political 
offenders are put to death. There is no country on earth 
which has not practised that rule in the past, or which will 
refrain from practising it in the future when the occasion 
arises. In most countries it is not often done nowadays in 
times of peace, but it is an extremely common thing in 
times of war or in case of insurrection. But if in principle 
a Government may go the length of taking a man s life, 
why all this fuss about making him put his hands to some 
useful labour? 

Perhaps the real explanation lies in the history of political 
offences. In former times the only persons ever imprisoned 
for any length of time for political offences were nobles, 
members of the ruling caste. The common people did not 
meddle with politics, or if they did, they were either hanged 
out of hand or overlooked. The noble could not be over 
looked, and if he was not beheaded he had to be kept safe 
somewhere or other. But he was not kept with common 
malefactors, or treated like them. He might be a prisoner, 
but he was still a gentleman, and was treated in a manner 
"befitting his rank." That old spirit survived clean into 
the last days of political imprisonment in pre-war Europe, 
and it is not dead yet. We do feel that to make a political 


The Use of Force 

prisoner work would be a sort of personal outrage, an 
insult, a degradation of his gentleman-like status. But it is 
hardly reasonable to expect that same rather snobbish 
attitude in a country where the dignity of manual labour 
is a fetish to which everyone pays at least lip-service, and 
where, apart from all possible question of cant or high- 
falutin theory, the manual worker is in actual indisputable 
fact a member of a privileged and dominant class. 

But the practical-minded critic here interposes, and says 
that all that may well enough be true, but that principles 
don t matter twopence one way or the other. The real 
question is not whether the political prisoners are made to 
work. No doubt most politicians would be a lot better 
for doing some hard work now and then. The pity is that 
apparently the nature of things eliminates any chance of 
the treatment being applied simultaneously to the politicians 
on both sides. But the thing that does matter is whether 
the prisoners are being treated humanely while they work. 
Are they properly fed and housed and clothed, or aren t 
they? And do they work under the lash, or not? 

There is no doubt that the practical man is quite right. 
These are the questions that really matter, and they are not 
political questions at all. But the trouble is that it is quite 
impossible to answer them. Between the venomous propa 
ganda of the Western Press and politicians, directed to prove 
that Russian prison conditions (and all other Russian 
conditions) are unspeakably bad, and the counter- 
propaganda of Bolshevist apologetics, directed to prove 
that everything in Russia is inexpressibly excellent, there 
is little chance of you and me finding out the truth for 
some little time to come. One might take the black and the 
rose colour and (metaphorically) mix them together, to see 
what sort of nondescript hue would be produced in that 
way ; and that is perhaps a fairly accurate metaphor of what 


This Russian Business 

many people really do do in such cases : they discount both 
stories to about the same extent, and (not without mis 
giving) adopt the result provisionally as a working opinion. 
But the process is rather too mechanical to be even moder 
ately safe. It is surely better to hold one s mind in suspense, 
to postpone judgment altogether for the present, as far as 
one s mind is capable of that extremely difficult operation. 
Especially as it is not at all vital for us to have an opinion 
on the subject immediately. We are not likely to do any 
thing very decisive about it, even if we do form some rash 
opinion or other. To judge from the still fairly recent 
reports of the United States Commission on the administra 
tion of the criminal law, conditions in American prisons 
seem to be pretty bad. We are all very sorry to hear it. 
But we do not feel that it is our business. We shall not go 
to war with America about it. On the contrary, if we are 
sensible men, we shall confine ourselves to seeing that our 
own house is in order, and for the rest, we shall (indeed 
we must) trust to the humanity and good sense of the 
people of the United States, or the people of Russia as the 
case may be, and of their respective Governments, to see 
that whatever is manifestly wrong is put right. We have 
after all no grounds whatever for supposing that the 
Governments of either of these great countries consist of 
sadist maniacs or professional torturers. Or even if we are 
sufficiently neurotic to adopt that somewhat over-simple 
view of people whom we do not like, we should surely 
remain accessible to the consideration that if Russia employs 
prisoners at work on a large scale, it is probably with some 
idea of getting a good deal of work done. And if either 
economic history or common experience proves anything 
at all about labour and its results, it is that labour which is 
under-nourished, badly clothed, poorly sheltered, cold and 
ill-treated, only produces the merest fraction of the results 


The Use of Force 

to be got from labour which is properly treated and looked 
after. It can hardly be supposed that the Bolshevik Govern 
ment is ignorant of this elementary fact, or that the men 
who somehow or other succeed in ruling one-sixth part 
of the globe are something very like half-wits 1 It will not 
do ; it simply won t work. The Bolshevik leaders may be 
either wicked or stupid, but propaganda must surely make 
its choice. They cannot be both, or they would long ago 
have disappeared. 

On the whole, therefore, we shall have to reckon this 
prison camp business amongst the lumber and rubbish 
which has to be cleared out of our minds before we can 
possibly attempt to judge whether Russian Socialism involves 
a loss of liberty, or even whether the present phase of the 
building-up of Socialism in Russia does at the moment 
involve a loss of liberty. Which is a rather different question, 
and a more practical one. 

For my own part, I find it quite impossible to believe 
that this vast effort of construction goes on without any 
element of compulsion. It is impossible in the first place, 
because there is a certain amount of quite definite objective 
evidence, evidence admitted by everybody on both sides 
to be true, which proves the existence of an element of 
compulsion. And it is impossible in the second pkce, 
because human nature is not so made. No collective effort 
on a krge scale has ever been exerted by any large com 
munity of mankind, without the dissentient minority being 
kept in line by force, either physical or moral. Either the 
unwilling or tardy members are made to toe the line by 
being dragged up to it by the scruff of the neck, or the 
same result is produced by a menacing hullabaloo of 
hooting and jeering. And moral force, the attack upon a 
man s will, can easily be far more atrocious than the physical 
attack upon his body. 

225 p 

This Russian Business 

It is not easy to find an exact parallel in the history of 
a modern individualist State to the present collective effort 
of Russia towards the building of a new economic order. 
The reason for this is obvious. The very essence of a 
"Capitalist" or individualist State, the characteristic which 
makes it individualistic and not Socialist, is precisely that 
the State does not undertake any krge collective enterprise 
in any field but one. It leaves such krge-scale undertakings 
to private initiative. The only real exception is the case 
of war. In that one instance the State does act on the 
commonwealth s behalf, and it not only requires, but if need 
be forcibly compels, the co-operation of every member of 
the State, under penalties which in the extreme instance 
may involve even putting the recalcitrant member to death. 
The most obvious instance of this compulsory co-operation 
is personal military service. For more than a century the 
principle of conscription has been part of the public law 
of almost every State in Europe, and even Great Britain 
was forced to adopt the principle on the only occasion 
for a hundred years on which she has been engaged in a 
life and death struggle. And this is of course the extreme 
degree of interference with personal liberty. A soldier has 
no liberty whatever, and the physical conditions of his 
servitude are as harsh as can possibly be conceived. He is 
compelled to render exact and prompt obedience to the 
commands of his superiors. He is exposed to continual 
hardship; he suffers hunger, thirst, fatigue, and physical 
misery of every sort. He is exposed to continual danger of 
wounds, disease, and death, and to barely do what is 
universally thought to be his duty he must not only suffer 
these things in a passive way, but must actively press 
forward to meet them; he must exert a high degree of 
effort, fortitude, endurance, and courage. And if his soul 
does not answer these demands, if he shirks or hangs back 


The Use of Force 

or resists, he is liable to all kinds of forcible compulsion, 
and in the last resort to a shameful death. 

And how is this tremendous servitude justified? It is 
justified by one consideration, and one alone: that of 
inexorable necessity. If the citizen does not rise to the 
height of this tremendous emergency, the State itself is 
in peril of dissolution. The citizen must sacrifice everything 
and must do everything, he must even die, in order that the 
community shall not die, in order that the national civilisa 
tion of which he is a member shall continue to exist in the 
way that he and his fellows conceived and framed it. And 
the same compulsion that lies upon the soldier in the field 
lies equally upon those who serve in other capacities at 
home: more especially on certain categories of citizens, 
on munition workers, on transport workers, and so on, 
but in principle, and if necessity arises, the same hard duty 
lies upon all without any exception. 

Now according to Russian conceptions the Soviet State 
also, though not at war in the military sense, is obviously 
engaged just now in a life and death struggle. The whole 
conception of national life and economy is at stake. If its 
plan of construction fails through treachery or slackness, 
the State itself fails. Failure means revolution, famine, 
civil war, probably military intervention by foreign Powers. 
Can it be wondered at that the use of force to compel 
co-operation to carry out discipline, to prevent wrecking, 
or any kind of active or passive resistance to the national 
purpose, is regarded as a thing obviously justified by that 
same plea of imperious necessity which every State relies 
on in time of open war? And it can hardly be doubted or 
denied that the Soviet conception of the vital urgency of 
the situation, from its own point of view, is objectively true. 
The very existence of the Soviet State is undoubtedly at 
stake. A signal failure in the constructive effort means the 


This Russian Business 

death of Russia as Russia now exists. Tt is idle to say that 
we should like Russia to die, that we should prefer some 
other Russia to supplant it, to rise phoenix-like from its 
ashes. Always, even in case of war, it is above all the 
established order in a State that seeks to ensure its own 
survival, that kys upon the citizen the duty of protecting it. 
You cannot expect a State to commit suicide, or to connive 
by slackness at its own destruction, simply because you 
do not like that kind of State. 

How far the Russian Government has actually found it 
necessary to exert any forcible compulsion on any of its 
citizens is of course an entirely different matter. Logically, 
it might be possible that there should be no compulsion 
of any kind, physical or moral, that there should exist 
such practical unanimity as to make compulsion unneces 
sary and irrelevant. Or it might be (and this is still the 
orthodox anti-Bolshevik view) that the essence of the 
whole thing is compulsion, that the Russian Government 
consists of a handful of doctrinaire maniacs who, by sheer 
stark military force, bloody repression, and ruthless tyranny 
of all kinds, have for fifteen long years succeeded in forcing 
a hundred and fifty millions of people to travel against the 
grain a road that almost all of them loathed, and in these 
latter years to exert tremendous energies to ensure the 
continuance of their own servitude. 

But of course neither of these stories will wash. Reason 
able men, believing the Russians, whom they do not know 
very well, to be probably men pretty much like themselves, 
will not be likely to accept either version as the truth, 
or even as an honest attempt at the truth. It is fairly clear 
for all practical purposes that in the main the mass of the 
Russian people is, and always has been, behind the 
Bolshevik Government, supporting it against counter 
revolution, and ready to defend it in case of external war. 


The Use of Force 

It is equally clear not only that a minority (probably a very 
small though very energetic minority) is at irreconcilable 
enmity with that Government and all its purposes, but 
also that a much more considerable section of the population 
accept and even in a sense support the Government purely 
and simply because it is the established order, in the same 
way as they would accept every other established order, 
on the principle of rendering unto Caesar the things which 
are Caesar s, or in other words, because that is the course 
of least resistance. There is a good deal of positive evidence 
on both these points, but even if there were none at all 
both statements are obviously pretty legitimate deductions 
from two plain facts. The first is the fact that from time to 
time various attempts have been made to overthrow the 
established order, ranging from the earlier civil wars on 
the grand scale to petty tumults here and there at odd times. 
And the second and still more significant fact is the rapidity 
and apparent ease with which the Government has always 
succeeded in vindicating its authority. A purely tyrannical 
Government, or even a really unpopular Government, 
seldom gets the best of its inveterate enemies with quite 
such ease, if these are very numerous or if the general 
population sympathises with them. But on this head there 
is one more fact so significant as to be conclusive to ordinary 
minds, and that is that the Five Years Pkn up to a point 
has obviously succeeded, even if we refuse to admit that 
it has akeady been completed in all its details. Now the 
Plan involved enormous difficulties and very heavy sacri 
fices, and it clearly could not have succeeded in any measure 
worth talking about without a continuous effort, a steady 
lift on the part of the great mass of the population during 
four long years, without a fairly general spirit of enthusiasm 
and comradeship at times and in pkces almost approaching 
the heroic scale. And you cannot produce that kind of thing 


This Russian Business 

by the mere application of force or threats or even terror. 
A cowed population may be reduced by those means to 
a sullen and passive acquiescence, but to suppose that any 
population forced to labour against the grain will exhibit 
rare qualities of energy and enthusiasm in the performance 
of that labour, is to betray a lamentable ignorance of 
ordinary human nature. 

It is sometimes said, however, that the Russian populace 
may not be constrained to support the Government, at 
least not in general, but that they are deluded by false 
promises of what is to follow. Well, they may be deluded. 
No one can deny that possibility, and if the critics were 
content to leave it at that, no one could reasonably object. 
But then again one must obviously suspend judgment. 
The only time when false promises can be clearly seen to 
be false is surely the time when they are due to be fulfilled, 
and that time is still some way off, say a year or two at the 
least. If the Western propagandists will agree to wait till 
then before they condemn the Russian experiment, I think 
the average man in the street would be content to refrain 
from any approval in the meantime. And if the politicians 
and journalists of Western countries were content to stand 
back and give Russk breathing-space and fair play, and 
a reasonable chance to work out her own salvation or 
damnation by her own efforts, without trying to influence 
the result by barracking or breaking the ring, without 
trying to cripple Russian external trade because it is Russian 
(or rather because it is Socialist) and without creating by 
vicious propaganda a mass psychology in the West (and 
in the Far East) in favour of warlike intervention in case 
any likely pretext should offer; why, in that case it would 
be much easier for a good many more or less disinterested 
persons to admit their own misgivings, and to try to form 
some reasonable opinions both as to what is really being 


The Use of Force 

achieved in Russia and as to what is the price that is 
being paid and t;hat must still be paid after the tale is 
fully told. 

For after all it is not purely a Russian question. If Russia 
succeeds in this enterprise before afl men s eyes, nothing on 
earth is more humanly certain than that the same enterprise 
will sooner or later be attempted in the West. And of 
course that is the rub. That is what really explains the 
viciousness of the attack on Russia, The paymasters of 
Western propaganda do not want that attempt to be made, 
for very good reasons of their own. And the partial half 
way success (even if it be no more) of the Five Years Pkn 
has, to use an Americanism, "got them rattled." Many of 
them honestly believe the experiment is in any case doomed 
to failure ; but then one never knows : there is always the 
element of doubt. And the unwelcome doubt that ob 
stinately rises in one s own mind is always the doubt one 
combats most fiercely when one encounters it in the outside 
world. The Five Years Pkn, and every other such plan, 
may be doomed to fail anyway, but Western finance will 
not take the risk if it can help it. 

And of course the trouble is that this test case that is 
being fought out in Russia, this experimentum in corpora vili> 
is by general consent, in one way, a pretty conclusive test. 
That is, it would be conclusive if it succeeded. By all 
theory, including all Socialist theory hitherto, an industrially 
undeveloped, mainly agricultural country, like Russia, is 
a priori the least hopeful soil for a Socialist experiment that 
could well be imagined. According to the pundits, Socialism 
ought to have come first in Germany, say, or England or 
France, for these countries have akeady that elaborate 
industrial organisation which Socialist theory presupposes, 
and which in Russia has to be built up out of the void. 
If then the Socialist theory of the State looks like succeeding 


This Russian Business 

even in Russia, a single successful experiment begins to 
^ear the aspect of a conclusive demonstration. 

All the West feels that, and it is for this reason that 
Russia looms so large in everybody s thoughts, and so 
much preoccupies the attention of both friends and enemies. 
It is not a question of forced kbour or skvery or dumping 
or atrocities, or even of Russian propaganda for world 
revolution. The only Russian propaganda that is worth 
twopence, and the only kind that any intelligent supporter 
of the established capitalist order really fears, is the propa 
ganda of success. If the Russian experiment breaks down 
in Russia after a reasonable trial, the moral defeat will be 
so crushing that no Socialist propaganda anywhere will be 
worth twopence for half a century to come. But if that 
experiment succeeds, then propaganda will be almost 
superfluous. It will be a case of res ipsa loquitur -, and there 
is no political force in Europe or America strong enough 
to prevent the triumph of the Socialist cause in all those 
nations, and the setting on foot of a fresh trial of the 
same attempt. 

And if that is at all true, it is surely in the interest of 
reasonable and disinterested people everywhere, no matter 
which side they are inclined to take in this enormous and 
extremely doubtful controversy, to insist that this huge 
laboratory experiment shall be carried through to the end 
without any smashing of the instruments, or any intimida 
tion of the workers, or any deliberate confusing of the 
records upon which the eventual conclusion will have to 
be based. 

It is perhaps true that the anti-Russian propaganda 
campaign, in spite of the enormous expansion and increased 
intensity which the Five Years Plan has provoked, does 
to some extent visibly improve in quality; it has come 
almost perforce to contain a more realist element, to strike 


The Use of Force 

a sincerer note ; it tends, though slowly, to become more 
matter-of-fact and to come more into the open. There is 
rather less moral indignation nowadays, and rather more 
honest complaint about real or imaginary .damage to trade. 
And the campaign is increasingly addressed rather to the 
present and the future than to the past. We do not harp 
as much as we once did on the shameful refusal of the 
Revolution to repay the money which the Czar borrowed 
(a good deal of it) for the purpose of suppressing the 
Revolution, nor even on the real or imaginary atrocities 
of the Cheka. We rather tend to lower the pitch of our 
complaint, even if we complain as loudly and steadily as 
we ever did. We may not altogether abandon the high 
apocalyptic tone, the horrified invocation of heavenly 
wrath, but we are coming to specialise in more prosaic and 
less sensational topics, such as these comparatively pedes 
trian matters of forced kbour and dumping. No doubt 
(for the moment, and until the next ZinovielF letter) we 
have become a shade more reasonable than America, which 
still refuses for righteousness sake to have any diplomatic 
relations with a country so fundamentally sinful, while at 
the same time for business reasons she does more trade 
with Russia than any other country on earth. The require 
ments of abstract righteousness are fortunately fairly easy 
to meet. It is enough to refuse to know the wrongdoer 
socially. You need not refuse to take his money. And yet 
we can hardly afford to be superior about that, so long as 
our own propaganda so deftly rings the changes on the 
twin notes of forced kbour and dumping. For we are 
indignant about forced labour for the Russians sake, out 
of pure phiknthropy and compassion for our neighbours 
wrongs ; but our indignation about dumping is a different 
matter; that portion of our charity begins and ends at 
home. And unfortunately these two motives of wrath 


This Russian Business 

tend to get mixed one with another, and it is not always 
clear whether we should be content at a pinch to put up 
with dumping, unfair competition in trading, if the products 
in question were not tainted at the source by slave labour, 
or whether we should perhaps overlook the alleged moral 
taint, if it were not that the products are dumped. All this 
propaganda is double-edged; which edge is it that really 
cuts its way through the habitual indifference of the general 
public? Should we really take so much interest in all these 
stories of forced labour in Russia, if it were not for the 
suggestion that the cheap products of this kbour undersell 
our own products in the markets of the world, and even 
in our own market? There is forced kbour of sorts (not 
convict kbour either) in the French colonies, and the 
British colonies too. And the very words of the colonial 
mandates from the League of Nations (that fount and 
well-spring of international righteousness) expressly allow 
forced kbour in the mandate colonies for certain purposes. 
But we don t make much of a fuss about that. The papers 
are not foil of it ; no tumult of moral indignation rises to 
heaven. But then forced kbour in the colonies does no 
damage to European trade. The average man would feel 
a good deal more comfortable about this international 
purity campaign if it were not for a certain uneasy feeling 
that the campaigners have perhaps an axe to grind. 



When Bolshevism Fails 

ONE CANNOT help wondering sometimes, amid all this clash 
of propaganda and counter-propaganda, what the opposing 
parties would do if one or the other were suddenly com 
pletely victorious, what it is that each of them really wants 
to happen in Russia. In the case of the Communists it is, 
I suppose, clear enough they want the Communist power 
to go on being Communist, ever more and more Communist, 
as Communist as possible. But what do the anti-Communists 
want? What would the propagandists of Western Europe 
really like to be done? Of course they would want the 
Soviet Power overturned; well and good, let us overturn 
the Soviet Power. But what next? Do they want the Czar- 
dom back? It is surely pretty safe to say that (in spite of 
Winston Churchill) even the neurotic and war-maddened 
Europe of these days would never willingly suffer that 
nightmare again. We may have learned little or nothing 
from all these tempestuous years, but on the other hand, 
there are some things that we can hardly have forgotten. 
But what else is there? Probably the average politician or 
newspaper owner, and also the average newspaper reader, 
so far as he gives it a thought at all, has vaguely in mind 
that some sort of bourgeois republic or constitutional 
monarchy would be a good sort of thing to have in Russia, 
something that we could understand, as much like our 
own kind of government as possible, with just a Russian 
flavour to it perhaps Kerensky might be given another 
chance, or if not, perhaps one of the better class of exiled 
grand dukes might serve a turn; he could be given some 
fatherly advice and a highly ornamental crown, and then 


This Russian Business 

there could be a Duma strong enough to prevent him 
making himself into a Czar. And the new regime could 
be started off with a bit of a loan (to be added to the debts 
which the Bolsheviks repudiated) and and then we could 
think about something else, and perhaps it would work 
all right. And if not well, what can you do? They are 
queer people, these Russians. 

Try as one may, any scheme of that kind, any vision of 
a shandy-gaff bourgeois parliamentary system working in 
Russia, always seems unreal and fanciful in the last degree. 
It will not come alive, even in thought. It is too late. So 
long as the Soviet Power was just as newfangled as the 
Provisional Government which it supplanted, it was easy 
enough to believe in a mere turning of the tables between 
those two. But in the meantime the Communist Govern 
ment has settled down and made itself at home, the regime 
has body and substance, it has struck deep roots down 
into reality and acquired a prescriptive right to existence, 
while its immediate predecessor is more and more the pale 
ghost of something that might have been. There are plenty 
of Russian parties, so-called, which are prepared to claim 
for themselves the inheritance of Bolshevism, if Bolshevism 
could only be persuaded to die. But they hate each other 
almost as much as the Soviet Power, they have no common 
doctrine, no conceivable basis of amalgamation; and what 
is worse, they have pretty obviously no support in the 
country. The Bolsheviks had very little of that when they 
started, but then they have been in power for fifteen years, 
and have acquired weight and legitimacy by the sheer 
physical fact of survival. It is becoming more and more 
obvious, even to those who hate the established order above 
all things, that it is quite definitely an established order, 
that it has at least the fundamental virtue of stability; and 
it is becoming equally clear that if and when it is over- 


When Bolshevism Fails 

thrown, it would be folly to hope for any equally stable 
Government on the other side to step immediately into its 
pkce. One candidate there is with perhaps some chance 
of success, the Czardom. But obviously even a restored 
Gzardom would not stand where it did before the war, or 
even before the Revolution. Its prestige has been smashed. 
The "period of prescription" has been broken. Everything 
would have to be started again from the beginning. A 
military despotism of that kind may endure for a long 
time as long as it has unbroken tradition behind it, even 
though the despots are men of fifth-rate capacity. But after 
fifteen years, and fifteen years of Communist propaganda 
too, it is a far different matter. Majesty rules by right 
divine, and it is a very effective way to rule. But Majesty 
returning after exile is not nearly as majestic; there is 
always a slight flavour of imposture about its pretensions ; 
it has been found out. It can hardly re-establish its former 
ckim to divine appointment; it is too obvious that either 
there is some hanky-panky, or the divinity is fickle, which 
is just as bad. Monarchies live by prestige far more than 
by actual power; but second-hand monarchs have no 
prestige, they must be maintained by sheer force, and their 
command of that is not always adequate. If the civil wars 
which would naturally follow a Bolshevik breakdown pro 
duced a general of first-ckss military genius, a Muscovite 
Napoleon, no doubt he might re-establish the empire of 
the Czars at least for a decade or two. But military geniuses 
are few and far between. And nothing less will do, if the 
past is any guide. Kolchak and Denikin and Judenitch and 
Wrangel all had their chance. All of them had strong out 
side support, and some of them seem to have had respect 
able military talents, but they made a poor showing. If no 
Napoleon ex macUna comes upon the scene, it is perhaps 
no very rash guess to prophesy a long stalemate. At least 

This ULussian Business 

it has almost always been so, when an established regime 
goes down in violence, and there is no heir with over 
whelming claims and the command of preponderating force. 
The succession is too tempting a prize not to be fought 
for, and in such a case everybody starts from scratch, so 
to speak. Anybody s fight is often nobody s fight. After 
the Roman Republic, civil wars. After the Chinese Empire, 
civil wars. After the Bolsheviks, chaos. In a vast and loose 
conglomeration like Russia, with many races and a dozen 
languages, and a territory that sprawls over two continents, 
the need of some strong central order, the danger of utter 
disintegration, are obviously far greater than in compacter 
and more homogeneous States. There were formerly many 
men of liberal mind who loathed the Czardom, but who 
felt that it ought to be tolerated simply because it was 
there, and was able to fend for itself, because the order 
which it represented stood between Europe and worse 
evils. And thoughtful Europeans of our own times, how 
ever anti-Socialist or anti-Soviet they may be in principle, 
may well be driven one of these days into facing the same 
kind of dilemma, even into the definite decision that they 
had rather Bolshevism should win through, than face the 
prospect of the vast catastrophe which would almost cer 
tainly be brought about by its fall. It is clear enough that 
its fall is still on the cards. If the Five Years Plan, or even 
the second Five Years Plan, unmistakably fails, or if the 
country is engaged in a first-class war before it succeeds, 
the storm may easily be too great for it to weather. But 
it is more and more certain that Bolshevism will not fall 
alone. It is too late for that. The soil and the soul of Russia 
are too deeply engaged in this enormous adventure. If that 
tremendous effort comes utterly to naught, a period of 
exhaustion must follow. It is not in mortals to begin again 
so soon, or to move mountains twice in a generation; 


When Bolshevism Fails 

there is no possible residue of energy which can be reason 
ably looked to for the heroic task of holding together 
Russia s welter of nations and babel of discordant tongues. 
It is difficult to imagine any necessary limit to as great a 
disaster. If once the Soviet Power goes under, then perhaps 
all Russia sinks back into the abyss. Once already the whole 
country seemed on the point of disintegration, and Russia, 
the territory governed by the Bolsheviks at their first 
beginning, shrank almost to the size of the mediaeval 
Muscovite dukedom. The country was saved from dissolu 
tion for that time, and the strong hand of the Soviet Power 
again united under the rule of Moscow the vast bulk of 
the former territory of the Czars. But there again it would 
be too much to expect so great an effort twice in the same 
generation. It is hard to believe that even a united Russian 
nation on the grand scale could again survive a shock of 
that kind. The overwhelming chances surely tend the other 
way. It seems a much more likely issue that (if the Soviet 
Power goes down) there will break over the wearied land 
a continual tempest of paltry wars after the Chinese model, 
destroying all that is European or national in Russia, and 
probably ending in the permanent Balkanisation of a sixth 
part of the globe. And if these gloomy chances come to 
pass, it will be a disaster almost without precedent or 
parallel since the ruin of Rome and the barbarian invasions. 
All the slow past of the Russian land will be cancelled in 
a matter of months ; the centuries will be rolled up like a 
scroll, and the Cossack and the Tartar may mount again 
and ride into the West. 

All this may of course be pure moonshine ; but if it is 
impossible and absurd to dogmatise about the political 
developments even of the immediate future, it is equally 
absurd, and far more perilous, to refuse to take account 
of the probable course of events merely because something 


This Russian Business 

different might happen. Certainly nothing can ever be safely 
anticipated; the only inevitable events in history are those 
whose inevitability historians of an after time have deduced 
from the mere fact that they happened, and if it had chanced 
otherwise, those other chances would also have been dressed 
up in the borrowed garments of fatality. None the less, 
there are certain probabilities, certain risks which no prudent 
man will run if he can help it, and if he is determined to 
run them he does well to count the cost beforehand. It 
may be that it is better for the capitalist West to leave 
Bolshevism alone, rather than risk those other perils which 
are likely enough to threaten Europe upon its dissolution. 
It may be on the other hand that the interests of the 
Capitalist order demand the expenditure of the last ounce 
of effort for the destruction of Bolshevism, no matter what 
the consequences might be. But Europe is older than either 
of these antagonists, and will, as most men hope, survive 
even the victor in this struggle; and there is a growing 
feeling even amongst the nominal supporters of Things 
as They Are that they would rather not see this ancient 
and still vigorous civilisation wantonly torn to pieces 
merely for the sake of stamping out a heretical doctrine of 
political economy. The time for Crusades is past; nowadays 
there is no longer any such faith in the divine inspiration 
of social and political orthodoxy. 



After Bolshevism Succeeds 

THE FUTURE belongs to the young, provided always that 
there are any young, and that there is any future for them 
to inherit, two conditions which are not as much a matter 
of course as they seem. We have heard of men who were 
born old; it is a thing that happens now and then to whole 
generations. And as to the future, if those now newly 
grown to manhood in the greater part of Europe are to 
find before they are old a world worth living in, it is high 
time that things began to mend a little. 

We know all about the post-war generation. But we do 
not always realise that in Russia the same generation is in 
at least as deep a sense post-Revolution. Time slips by, 
and one forgets that there are already young men and 
girls, millions on millions of them, who have never known 
any Russia but Communist Russia, and millions more who 
began their intelligent lives with the war, and whose first 
experience of life in a normal order of things was of life 
under the Soviet Power. These are the Russian post-war 
generation, but in many ways it has little in common with 
its contemporaries except the mere tale of years. Its roots 
are the same and yet not the same; its spiritual inheritance 
is of an opposite kind. With us the war shattered every 
thing, and the new life grew up surrounded by a world in 
ruins. In its very cradle it was war-weary and world-weary, 
prematurely old, knowing that all is vanity and vexation 
of spirit; and all the glory of its dawn was clouded by 
that sombre and desperate knowledge. It is a tragic thing 
for youth to know (or to think it knows) in advance that 
life is mostly worthless and hopeless, and that there is no 

241 Q 

This Russian Business 

new thing under the sun, to feel that it has no futute that 
is worth any sacrifice, and to have no reasonable course 
open but to drug itself with jazz and cynicism, sex and 
noise and nonsense. 

In Russia the case is different. To the Russians the war 
was the same bloody shambles as for the rest of the world, 
but the atmosphere of horror was never heightened by an 
atmosphere of humbug, of cynical imposture unmasked 
when it was too late. The war was not something that 
was to make the world safe for democracy, and which 
unaccountably failed to do it; it was not something that 
should produce a new spirit between the classes, cause 
the rich and the poor to understand each other better, and 
transform the scarred face of Europe into a land fit for 
heroes to live in. Those disillusions the Russians have not 
suffered, partly because nobody thought of spinning just 
those fantasies for their benefit, but, of course, chiefly because 
they had something else to think of. In Russia the war 
does not fill the horizon of the immediate past in the same 
way as with us ; it does not loom as large. Apart from the 
sheer physical destruction it caused, the war was only 
important as having in a sense cleared the way for the 
Revolution; it was the last wild, disastrous orgy of imperial 
ism, the explosion in which the old order destroyed itself. 
Against that fiery and senseless background the living 
Revolution rises, enormous, dynamic, full of meaning and 
purpose. For Russian youth the Revolution is not as much 
the end of the old regime as the beginning of the new; 
it is the very life they live, the atmosphere they breathe; 
its face is set forwards, it presses on to an undiscovered 
future. Whatever else Russians may be, it is not easy for 
them in this age to be decadents, fin de stick, agnostics in 
the matter of living. The stage is not set for that; these are 
far different times. If it is true that optimism and pessimism 


After Bolshevism Succeeds 

go in waves, they have been born, they feel, upon the 
upward lift, or at least the trough was passed before -they 
felt their strength. 

This boundless enthusiasm of Russian youth is a common 
place of all observers, but not everybody looks on it as a 
hopeful sign. This, cry one class of critics, this is the grand 
illusion, this ruinous expectation of impossible things, this 
raising of fallacious hopes to levels undreamt of by any 
folly hitherto. For in reality there is no such future as they 
look forward to, the whole thing is impossible and insane, 
a bubble blown up and dancing in the sunlight; and the 
greater the enthusiasm, the higher their hopes are lifted, 
the more desperate will be the inevitable disaster, the darker 
the ineluctable despair. In spite of their apocalyptic tone, 
nobody can say for certain that such warnings will never 
be verified. The risks are enormous ; the sheer abyss yawns 
to left and right; and there is no turning back. But it was 
always so. Every great human effort pkys with tragic 
chances; the forward road is always beset with danger. 
But the human spirit presses forward none the less, and 
even if all fails, surely the effort and the eager pressing 
forward are worth something for their own sake. If every 
thing in this new world-order turns out to be fundamentally 
wrong, if the whole great enterprise ends in unmitigated 
disaster on a scale hardly known before in human memory, 
this exaltation meanwhile, this positive lift and swing in 
the spirit of the new generations, will be something not 
negligible to set against that wreck. It can never be a vain 
or worthless thing that even one generation should live 
its youth through with its eyes on the stars and its face 
set towards the future. The stars may turn out to be will 
o ? the wisps, and the future an ever receding mirage. Our 
own inert hopelessness may correspond to the inescapable 
and ultimate truth, and that universal rottenness in which 

This Russian Business 

we acquiesce may be the very texture of human fate. But 
even if, willy-nilly, Russia also comes at kst to that dreary 
knowledge, it will always be something that she had (at 
long kst) her youth and her time of unforgettable illusions, 
her brief moment of exultation in a joyous and not ignoble 
future. Something will still have been gained and kept 
beyond all losing ; at the least, one more race of men will 
have spent its little time in courageous folly and gone out 
singing into the dark; one generation will have been saved 
from the mud, 

There is an opposite kind of criticism, one perhaps most 
often heard on the lips of the clergy, but supported now 
and then by eminent politicians and other highly respect 
able and serious-minded persons. It is roughly this; that 
the new Russk is materialist and unmoral, that the new 
generation is without a soul, that the whole Communist 
movement tends towards the popukrisation of a certain 
cynical egotism hitherto peculkr to the rich, towards a kind 
of proletarian Epicureanism. It is a criticism which is often 
enough applied to our own manners and morals, and is 
then usually received with a tolerant smile; one understands 
that the clergy have to talk like that; it is what they are 
there for. Here is a sample, culled from an unusually 
sympathetic article on Russia by a clerical visitor : 

". . . there is something sinister about that tremendous 
enthusksm that one notices, that boundless hopefulness of 
Russian youth. They are too hopeful, or rather they are 
too satisfied with the hopes they have. It is perfectly clear 
that all their aspirations are on a purely material plane. 
They do not hope for, they do not even want, anything 
beyond material well-being, I do not bkme them even for 
wanting that first, though I think that inverts the natural 
order of things, . . . But they do not seem to have any 
thoughts of spiritual welfare at all, even as a thing to come 


After Bolshevism Succeeds 

afterwards." I showed this article to Augustus. His ver 
dict was at least definite. "Bosh!" he said. "Why should 
they want anything beyond physical well-being? That s 
what we re all after, isn t it? If those comfortable-looking 
clerics who talk like that have spent their lives pursuing 
something different from material well-being, they seem 
to have taken that in their stride as well, at any rate. Besides, 
the clergy can still go on preaching whatever they believe 
in to these people, even if they do get their earthly paradise. 
But that isn t what they want, of course. The real trouble 
is that the demand for felicity of any sort, human or super 
human, depends more or less on how much you have got 
already. If the masses of people ever did get fairly comfort 
able in this life, it would spoil the market for those who 
trade in the life to come !" 

This somewhat intemperate outburst rather impressed 
me, not because of its intrinsic merits (for it is clearly a 
mere irrelevant argumentum ad hominem) but because it 
was so obviously couched in the authentic Bolshevik style. 
It might have been lifted almost whole from a Russian 
"anti-religious" pamphlet. It is, in fact, the stock reply to 
that kind of criticism, and if it is a sound principle that 
people who do not practise what they preach should be 
prohibited from preaching, no doubt that reply will do 
well enough for practical purposes. 

But of course the fact remains that so far as the criticism 
in question is an objective one, it is perfectly valid; there 
is no answer. If spiritual values, moral earnestness, all the 
higher part of human nature, do really depend upon the 
belief in a personal Deity and in human immortality, and 
even upon the guardianship of those beliefs being com 
mitted to an organisation of professional experts in religion 
(and it is this enormous assumption that all such criticism 
tacitly and quite honestly makes), then clearly the new 

This Russian Business 

generations in Russia care nothing for such values. But 
the premises of such an argument are surely rather too 
large, and the argumentum ad hominem in reply has after 
all a certain relevance, because of the evident fact that the 
same element is inherent in the original criticism. If I tell 
you that your way of life can have no moral values because 
you do not believe what I believe, you are clearly entitled 
to retort that my beliefs are false, and that my personal 
attack upon your morals therefore falls back upon my own 
head. No common ground is possible short of a plain 
admission that every earnest endeavour has its own moral 
atmosphere, every striving for the common good has its 
own set of spiritual values. But that is an admission which 
those in possession of dogmas which they regard as neces 
sary to salvation can hardly be expected to make. Yet the 
impatience (or the smiling contempt) of the practical man 
for such arm-chair preaching has more than a merely prac 
tical justification. There is a deeply moral basis to his 
instinctive objection to idle people chattering to the man 
with tools in his hand. When something has to be done, 
the man who takes off his coat and does it is for the moment 
the only representative of the moral order, and the gentle 
man in bkck who gets in his way and presses tracts upon 
him (though they drip with wisdom) is quite evidently an 
instrument of the powers of darkness. 

From any point of view, the obvious urgent material 
things have got to be done first. Even those who are con 
vinced beyond all doubtings that men are spirits are still 
constrained to acknowledge that they are not disembodied 
spirits, and however austerely the tribute due to the body 
may be limited, it is a tribute which has to come first. 
Until life itself is set on firm ground and made tolerable 
to live, the question of its ultimate purpose does not even 
arise. When you are escaping out of a shipwreck in a 


After Bolshevism Succeeds 

storm, you have no time to examine your conscience or 
to reflect on the deeper meanings of life; your job is to 
bail the boat and make the land; and if you can set about 
that in a hopeful spirit, it will probably better your chances. 
So it is now in Russk. The people of that country are 
engaged in a task of material construction so great as per 
haps to be beyond all human strength, but which at any 
rate means years of tense struggle. When that is well over, 
the curious foreigner may with better grace settle himself 
in his arm-chair and begin to consider what has been won 
and lost. 

Yet of course it is clear enough from the beginning, in 
a certain sense, that youthful enthusiasm, however glorious 
and heartening, will never have the last word. The middle- 
aged know better, most unhappily for themselves, and in 
these stirring times they never quite catch the universal 
fervour. They consent, they subscribe, they hope, they even 
work, but always with mental reservations. They cannot 
forget even in the fire and glow of sunrise that, if not in 
the material affairs of men, at any rate in their minds and 
aspirations, there comes an inevitable afternoon. The in 
eluctable truth is that reality will never answer all these 
hopes, that the promises of youth cannot be paid in full, 
that even though all things may fall out according to our 
utmost wish, there will still be no such high and lasting 
joy, no such deep indestructible satisfaction, as we promised 
ourselves in the morning. 

No doubt in twenty years time the Socialist youth of 
Russia will know the taste of that salt truth, and perhaps 
even the generation that is young in that day will see its 
own future through a more sombre air than that which 
their fathers breathed. But the fact that a certain dis 
couragement may be inevitable is surely no reason for 
wilfully anticipating it. Great enthusiasms run in cycles, 

This Russian Business 

in slow mountainous waves, with centuries between one 
high lift and the next. These are the golden times of the 
human race; they make all the rest worth while. No doubt 
hopes then rise to impossible heights, but if hopes were 
not sometimes too high, performances would perhaps be 
lower than they need be. Those happy enough to be on 
the crest are not conscious of this wave-like flux and reflux; 
but this is a salutary thing, for half their strength is in 
their unconsciousness. Faith moves mountains, but only a 
perfect faith. The critical spirit is out of place in those 
who are called to great actions. It is for the less fortunate 
onlooker to note with a subdued exaltation the rising curve 
which sweeps upwards towards that height, and to divine 
with a tempered regret the descending curve, the reaction 
which may lead to a tamer and more pedestrian future, 
but which can never cancel the heroic moments of the past. 
And in Russia as elsewhere we may admit that the 
descending curve is inevitable. There is bound to be a 
reaction of sorts some day, and that not only if Bolshevism 
now breaks down. If that happens, there clearly threatens 
a storm more violent than any hitherto, perhaps long years 
of anarchy, -perhaps the restoration of the despotism of the 
Czars, in either case a disaster so deep and far-reaching 
that even the sworn and chief enemies of Bolshevism shrink 
back before the prospect, and hope against reason for some 
middle way. But suppose even that no such thing comes 
to pass, suppose (and at this moment it seems a more 
likely guess than any other) that the proletarian dictatorship 
do finally succeed in building their Socialist order, indus 
trialising Russia on an enormous scale, doubling, trebling, 
increasing ten or a hundredfold the yearly production of 
wealth. And suppose also that they succeed in maintaining 
continuously a ju$t distribution of that wealth, and so 
raising every worker and peasant to an unheard-of level 


After Bolshevism Succeeds 

of social welfare. And (last and greatest of all) suppose 
that while they do that, they also increase the real effective 
personal liberties of the individual to a level unknown in 
Capitalist countries. These are enormous hypotheses,. But 
if they are granted, if the reality works out like that, and 
if then the Russians take stock of all their welfare, will not 
still the most essential thing be wanting? For unhappily 
they will still be men, and in spite of moralists it is not 
true that man s injustice to man is the cause of all the evil 
in the world. Even enfranchised man is still mortal. Nothing 
will ever alter that, and nothing will ever reconcile our race 
to that unalterable doom. The human tragedy lies not so 
much in the certainty of fate, or in the ephemeral quality 
of human existence; all the animals are as ephemeral as 
mankind, or more, but no cloud of tragedy hangs about 
their heads. Our tragedy is that our minds are so made 
that we cannot keep out of them the persistent imagination 
that it might be otherwise. In the everlasting clash of desire 
and doom, the tragic and piteous element is not the doom 
but the desire, the human animal s unsubmissive resentment 
of the inevitable, the deep impossibility of resignation, the 
utter helplessness of all his wisdom in the face of his own 
instinctive will to live, his unregenerate passion for sheer 

So that after all three square meals a day and unlimited 
picture shows and fancy socks will never quite still our 
mortal craving for something we have not got. The major 
problems of life will still remain unsolved, and perhaps 
when we have more leisure to attend to them we shall be 
still more oppressed by the terribly obvious fact that they 
are insoluble. And so our imaginary successful Socialist of 
the next generation will then of necessity let his mind dwell 
a little upon many questions which in our generation he 
refuses (and rightly refuses) to consider with any feelings 


This Russian Business 

but those of impatient scorn. To the typical Communist 
of these days religion, transcendental philosophy, the origin 
and destiny of man, all the deep and far-off things of life 
are little better than red herrings deliberately trailed across 
his path by the designing Capitalist and his venal clerical 
hangers-on, with the single object of distracting the atten 
tion of the working classes from the terribly urgent job 
of abolishing the Capitalist, and turning capital itself to the 
common profit of the whole people. Nor, I think, can any 
honest man lay his hand upon his heart and say that these 
high things have never in any degree been prostituted to 
those base uses, nor even that such prostitution has been 
a rare or exceptional thing. In spite of large exceptions, it 
has been generally true that (consciously or unconsciously) 
religion, history, philosophy, science, abstract thought in 
all its forms, has contrived to win its freedom to contem 
plate all time by some preliminary obeisance to the age in 
which it lives. It has to come to terms with the society 
which gives it bread, and in a thousand ways, small and 
great, it temporises, it flatters Caesar for the sake of peace; 
it stands aloof from the urgent struggles of contemporary 
mankind; it makes no contribution to unpopular causes; 
it surveys the stars or searches the past only at the price 
of some implicit betrayal of the future earth. 

Yet when all is said and done the stars are still there and 
the meaning of the world is yet unknown : at some time 
or other all these irrelevant questions will become most 
terribly relevant, all these red herrings will one day have 
to be eaten (or whatever is done to red herrings by those 
deluded brethren who weakly digress in their pursuits). 
A defender of Bolshevism might perhaps interject that the 
Bolsheviks do not neglect science, even now. On the con 
trary, they simply worship it. It is their God, or one of 
their gods. That is true, but I think it is mostly applied 


After Bolshevism Succeeds 

science that they worship, science which will set its shoulder 
to the wheels of the Five Years Plan, or some other later 
plan. And if then our Communist ifiterjector ups and says 
that when the period of urgent construction is passed the 
triumphant Socialist State (if the Socialist State does triumph) 
is likely to be a far more enthusiastic supporter and fosterer 
of even abstract science than any other sort of State, I can 
only say that I believe that too may be true. But that will 
mean exactly what has already been suggested : the class 
struggle will sink into the background: the deeper and 
more hopeless struggle, the struggle that is human and 
nothing else, will be the very task that directly faces all 
those triumphant energies. After a glorious and hard- won 
victory they will suddenly turn a corner and come face to 
face with certain and abysmal defeat. And yet it might 
be reasonably argued that the sooner we get to that corner 
the better. For in the first place it is surely not true, in the 
long run, that men who found themselves in secure posses 
sion of material comfort would be less keenly interested 
in far-off abstract things or in the general human tragedy. 
Even now it is surely true that those who do most attend 
to such things are precisely those who have leisure, who 
have culture and knowledge, and who are not pressed hard 
by want or insecurity the very advantages which the 
Socialist State promises its citizens, the first and chief 
stock-in-trade of its propaganda. 

And then (always upon that same hypothesis of the 
triumph of Socialism according to its promises) a dreamer 
might prophesy that those tremendous and soaring energies 
which (by hypothesis) have brought to a successful con 
clusion what is admittedly the most gigantic material enter 
prise ever conceived by human brains and seriously 
attempted by human hands a material enterprise which 
cannot go even a fraction of the way to success without 


This Russian Business 

enormous moral and spiritual forces being developed in 
the mass enthusiasm which so vast a labour implies and 
requires that these energies will not for long falter before 
a different task, and that the result of their temporal triumph 
will be to enormously increase the sum total of courage, 
of patience, fortitude, and wisdom with which even now, 
and even in the remotest past, a small fragment of mankind 
at all times faces the central problem of the meaning of our 
own existence. The problem (he might admit) is perhaps 
insoluble, but sooner or later it had better be faced, and it 
can hardly be said that we have honestly faced the one 
problem that really concerns us while we waste nearly all 
the mental and spiritual powers of every generation in this 
tragic and sordid tomfoolery of wars and class oppressions 
and wanton squabbles and unnecessary poverty and almost 
universal ignorance. 

But the contemporary Communist takes no such point 
of view. For him there is flatly no such problem. He brushes 
all these considerations aside as mere sentimentalism, or 
worse. He is the typical man of action, and he will tolerate 
no morbid introspection, no neurotic brooding over impos 
sible things. He never thinks of death, and he is far too 
urgent that life ought to be lived thus and thus, to endure 
without irritation the intrusion of doubts as to whether it 
is worth living at all. If man is healthy enough (and to 
make him healthy is a mere matter of science and hygiene) 
he will never trouble his head about mortality until he is 
actually about to die, and then it will hardly matter. The 
Socialist citizen, in fact, will be the perfect Epicurean. 
Epicureanism is right, and Stoicism is wrong, just as 
Marxism is right, and other economic systems are wrong. 
There is no question of a continuous controversy, or of 
a permanent cleavage of opinion. Thinking is a function 
of living, and not vice versa. The new order will produce 


After Bolshevism Succeeds 

its own philosophy (indeed, it is already doing so), and 
pessimism and abstruse speculation will tend to wither and 
die in the drier air of science and common sense. For man 
is at bottom a reasonable animal. And if it turns out that 
he is not but we shall see that things do not turn out 
that way. For if after all they do, we shall evidently have 
failed, and it will be somebody else s turn. 



America, 28, 41, 43> 44* 45> 8 3 86 > 
93, 102, in, 129, 175, 224, 232, 

Amritzar, 208 

Armistice Day, 125 

Athens, 57 

Australia, 19, 189, 190 

Austria, 40, 190 

Baldwin, 222 
Berlin, 53, 57 
Bloody Sunday, 19 
Boyars, 60 
Braal, 190 

Canada, 28, 190 

China, 177 

Civil War, 20 

Coalition Government, 61 

Conrad, Joseph, 122 

Constantinople, 57 

Crusades, 26, 198, 240 

Czar, 41, 63, 94, 112, 113, 116, 119, 

121, 122, 125, 151, 168, 207, 210, 

218, 233, 239, 248 

Denikin, 41, 2 
Disraeli, 17 
Dnieper, 158 

2 37 

Egyptians, 18 

England, 28, 41, 45, 53, 59, 6o > 68 
73, 74, 85, 91, 96, 102, 108, 117, 
140, 158, 161, 168, 169, 189, 197, 
199, 211, 221, 231 

Englishmen, 60, 82, 92, 112, 169 

Europe, 41, 43, 44, 65, 83, 98, 99, 
102, in, 117, I", 123, I2 4 1^3, 
166, 167, 175, 181, 209, 226, 232, 
238, 240, 241 

Fascism, 180, 181 

Five Years Plan, 25 et seq., 39, 61, 

66, 67, 75, T 8 , 82 8 ?> I00 > Io6 
149, 176, 178, 216, 219, 229, 231, 

Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, 

116, 117 
France, 45, 59, 68 , 74, 7 J 54, I9<> 

208, 231 
French Revolution, 26, 157, 206 

Georgia, 104 

Germany, 40, 41, 45, 68, 74, "7> 

154, i77> * 8 7, *9, 2 3* 
Gladstone, 17 
Gregory the Great, 178 

House of Commons, 188 

House of Lords, 102, 189, 190, 191 

Ireland, 208 

Italy, 1 80, 208 

Ivan the Terrible, 113 

Jan Rudzutak, 9, 12, 13, 36 
Japan, 123 
Judenitch, 237 

Kerensky, 122 

Kiev, 158, 177 

Kolchak, 210, 237 

Kremlin, 65, 112, 113, 116, 122 

Kronstadt, 49 

Kulaks, 107 

Labour Party, 85 

Lenin, 12, 14, 17, 20, 21, 50, 105, 113, 

114,115, 118,122,125,157 
Leningrad, 7, 8, n, 30, 40, 49, 50, 

51, 56, 57, 94,95, i, 7> *39 
London, 51, 53, 57, 6 , 6l 7 
Looking Backward, 8 
Lord Chamberlain, 162, 168 

MacDonald, Ramsay, 164, 175, 222 
Marx, Marxist, n, 12, 17, 20 , 2 5, 8 5> 

101, 132,133,252 
Menshevik, 210 
Mexico, 190 
MolotorT, 222 

This Russian Business 

Moscow, 7, 30, 40, 43, 44, 52, 56, 57, 
60, 63, 69, 70, 76, 89, 94, 99, in, 
112, 117, 122, 127, 178, 181, 195, 

Napoleon Bonaparte, 26, 33, 157 

Nepmen, 91, 107 

Neva, 49 

Nevsky Prospect, 50, 197 

New Economic Policy, 105, 106 

New World, 26, 41 

Nijni Novgorod, 47 


Paris, 51, 53*57,69,87 

Patriarch Tikhon, 156 

Peterloo, 19 

Petersburg, 63 

Peter the Great, 50 

Place of Skulls, 113 

Poincare, 164 

Pope Leo the Thirteenth, 130, 131, 


President of the Republic, 65 
Prime Minister, 33, 103, 109 
Prussians, 87 

Queen Victoria, 17 

Red Army, 113, i2o> 157 

Red Flag, 18, 19, 113, 116, 117, 125 

Red Square, 44, 112, 113, 115, 122, 


Reformation, 26, 1364 183 
Renaissance, 26 
Roger Casement, 211 
Roman Empire, 136, 144, 146, 190 
Romanoffs, 60, 122 

St. Isaac s Cathedral, 139, 164 

Siberia, 19, 220 

Singapore, 208 

Slavs, 12,44,57,92 

South Africa, 190 

Stalin, 12, 32, 43, 44, 122, 222 

Stalingrad, 50 

Sverdlov, 50, 113 

Switzerland, 190 

Thiers, 87 

Times y The,, 18, 217 

Tolstoi, 137 

Urals, 88 
Vorovski, 113 
Wrangel, 41, 210, 215, 237 
Zinovieff, 233 

1 06 678